Bookstores in Philadelphia that are “open” during COVID-19

As would be the case, I just found a social media post from my favorite Anarchist co-op bookshop saying they’re going virtual. So, not a full 30 minutes from posting, I’m already updating the list. Weee!

The world feels like it might be ending and I haven’t been inside a bookstore since late February, when I hopped the El to Fishtown after a nail appointment with my Nail Wizard to check out a new addition to the Philadelphia indie bookshop scene. Unfortunately, that is a sentence I don’t know that I’ll be able to write again for a very, very long time—a sad thing, because I miss both my Nail Wizard and the ability to take public transit without feeling like I’m going to catch the literal plague.

The one fortunate thing about all of this is that despite all nonessential retail being closed throughout PA, most of the bookstores that I love are open for online orders! I may not be able to set foot inside them and browse, but many of them have been hard at work listing and shipping books they have in stock. Others still are able to fulfill orders through distribution centers, and yet others more are participating in Bookshop.org’s affiliate program.

I have a few favorite bookshops around the country, but I’m obviously a lot biased towards Philadelphia bookshops, being that I call this city home and rarely venture outside of its margins. After browsing a very incomplete list put together by another, much larger book blog that encompassed a few stores in each state, I felt like I really had to put together a list that focused solely on supporting Philly bookshops. This is going to be by no means a complete list because even I can’t keep track of all the bookstores that pop into existence seemingly overnight around here. I’m only going to list the stores that have a visible online shopping presence and will try to update as restrictions change.

A

A Novel Idea – A Novel Idea is a newer shop in East Passyunk, super cute and a big supporter of small press publications. Their “Order” page is sparse, but will allow you to order one of the owner’s books, submit an inquiry directly to the shop, and also send you to their Bookshop.org affiliate page.

B

Big Blue Marble Bookstore – You can shop a limited selection of books in their online store at any time, or you can call and ask if they have something in stock and pay over the phone. They also have an affiliate store on Bookshop.org.

Bindlestiff Books – Unfortunately, it appears that one of the coolest bookstores in West Philly does not have an online shop presence at the moment. I’m still including them because they are taking pre-orders for Suzanne Collins’ new book (release date is May 19).

Brickbat Books – In this day and age, it feels like social media has taken over our lives. If you want more books in your IG feed and love used books, you can buy from Brickbat via their IG feed. If you see something you like, shoot them an email, which they provide at the end of every post. If something is sold before you get to it, you’ll see it noted in the description.

G

Giovanni’s Room/PAT @ Giovanni’s Room – Looking for a good, queer read? Welcome to Philadelphia, home of the USA’s oldest operating queer bookstore. I may need a fact-check on that last statement, but I don’t need one to tell you that you can order from them directly.

H

Hakim’s Bookstore – The shop focuses on African American Studies and has a large inventory available online. Some books are new, others are used.

Harriett’s Bookshop – This was the last bookstore I got to set foot into this year. Brand spanking new, this space largely focuses on WOC writers and artists. They’re shipping what they have in-stock at the store.

The Head and the Hand – The Head and the Hand is a nonprofit bookstore and independent publisher. You can order directly through their website for the books they publish or through their shop on Bookshop.org for everything else.

Head House Books – Because they are unable to offer in-person deliveries currently, they are offering free shipping on all orders over $35 from their website.

House of Our Own – This used bookstore is currently able to fulfill orders through their Biblio.com page. The selection is small and pricey for a used bookstore, but it’s worth it to poke around and see if something wild and unexpected catches your eye.

J

Joseph Fox Bookshop – While you can shop through their website, it appears that Joseph Fox is relying mainly on direct-from-distributor order fulfillment for now.

N

Neighborhood Books – The physical location is a used bookstore, but they have a Bookshop.org page you can buy new books through.

P

Penn Book Center/People’s Books and Culture – I’m not 100% certain that they’re fulfilling online orders right now, but they have a small selection of books on their online shop. I would definitely shoot them an email before ordering, though.

S

The Spiral Bookcase – Another favorite of mine! This shop focuses more on the esoteric and occult and is also a used bookstore. You can order directly from their website, though many books are one-off offerings and you’ll see a lot of sold out titles. I check in with them every few days because they’re always updating what they have to offer.

U

Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books – The café is closed, but you can shop for physical books through their indielite.org or for audiobooks from libro.fm.

W

New Wooden Shoe Books and RecordsWooden Shoe is an Anarchist co-op bookshop that is currently testing the online ordering waters. Go to their Airtable order page and follow the link to their inventory to find what they have. They can bike courier your order or send it through the post.

Pennsylvania’s Stay at Home order has been extended until June 4th. While we’re all hoping that this will be a true end-date, there are going to be several restrictions still in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Some stores may be able to open physical locations again, or be able to provide curb-side pickup. If and when this happens, I’ll come back and update this list to add the information along with any stores that are able to reopen in some capacity. In the meantime, I hope you find some satiation through this list!

2019 – Chapter One

 

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and are looking forward to what 2019 might bring. For me, I know that I’m going to be doing some pretty kick-ass traveling, spending time working on making this blog what I originally envisioned it to be, heading back to school for the millionth time, seeing my not-so-guilty pleasure favorite boy band in concert, and welcoming my third niece or nephew to the world. There is so much that I can’t predict for the year, though. We love to set goals for ourselves at the beginning of the year, using January 1st as a benchmark for turning over new leaves or creating new habits, but life is unpredictable and sometimes the goals we set in January never get met. I try to keep mine as realistic as possible, but even then I can’t fulfill everything I want to do.

With that in mind, I am definitely setting some challenges for myself this year. I want to read at least one author per letter of the alphabet, read at least one nonfiction book per month, finish at least three of the series I’ve already started, and utilize my city library more. The most difficult of these will be the first two. My Goodreads Want To Read doesn’t currently have any authors for I, Q, U, or X, and I am far more drawn to fiction than non-fiction these days.

All of that said, I have cobbled together a pile of books I want to read throughout January, and have already finished two of them (albeit, they were short).

Finished

  • The Illustrated Herbiary by Maia Toll
    • I have a review of this posted on Goodreads if anyone is interested in checking it out. This is a guidebook for a set of oracle cards that comes with it. I love the illustrations and interpretations of the different plants used for the cards.
  • Tank Girl: Visions of Booga by Alan Martin and Rufus Dayglow
    • This was my second reading of this really short mini-series published early on in the mid-2000’s Tank Girl reboot. I enjoyed it when it first came out and still enjoyed it now, but I’d consider this mini-series to be quite tame when compared to other TG story lines.

Currently Reading

  • Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines
    • This is book four of the Ex-Heroes series. Currently, Clines has five books out for the series, and he’s teased the possibility of releasing at least one more. I absolutely adore this series. It mashes together superheroes and zombies in a post-apocalypse Los Angeles setting. This is one of the series that I’m hoping to finish this year, even though I am not sure that I’m actually ready to be done with the books.
  • Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
    • Just as I start talking about finishing series that I’ve already started, I begin a brand new series. This is book one of the New Crobuzon series, which is a new weird/weird fantasy series set in a steampunk Victorian London-esque city that is home to humans and humanoids that get tangled up in a bunch of seedy plots.
  • Bitch Planet: Triple Feature by various writers and artists
    • Triple Feature is a compilation of comics that take place in the Bitch Planet reality but aren’t by the original creators.

Want To Read

  • Runaways: Find Your Way Home by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka
  • Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
  • Sourdough by Robin Sloan
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  • You Play the Girl by Carina Chocano

It’s a long list, but what’s the point of coming up with New Year’s goals if you aren’t a little ambitious about them, right?

Like the rest of the bookish internet community, I have a post planned with a breakdown of my reading from 2018 coming up, so stay tuned!

Mid-Month Check In

books stack old antique
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s the middle of December and I have a monthly check in post going up? Why, yes, I do!

I’ve already finished most of my December reading goals, which is honestly very surprising. It helps that I had a lot of graphic novels on my TBR, but I only have two (two and a half?) books left to earn a gold star for the month. I finished both The Plastic Magician and Ghostly, which were in progress at the time I published my end of the year reading list. I’ve also read all of the graphic novels on that list, and even added in a middle grade book that wasn’t originally on it. I’m currently making my way through The Sisters of the Winter Wood quite quickly, which only leaves me with MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation and Plato and a Platypus. None of this includes books I read or finished before I made my end of the year reading list, either. I’m not sure if anything I read this month will garner a full review from me, but at the very least I’ll give a rundown of my feelings at the end of the month.

I also went and did some exploring around my city this past week. I’m hoping to start a series about local bookstores, so I mapped out an adventure for myself in one area of the city that has a number of bookstores within walking distance. I got to check out two brand-new-to-me bookstores and the physical location of a third that was a vendor at a book event a friend and I attended earlier this month. I’d like to write about the bookstores in twos or threes and – as long as they’re inside city limits – keep them within an easy walking distance of each other. Eventually, I know I’ll want to talk about the amazing bookstores that are not in Philadelphia proper, but there are still so many in Philadelphia for me to check out. And, with any luck, I’ll be able to do some bonus posts about bookstores in other states (and countries!) in the following year.

Does anyone else have exciting goals and ideas for 2019 already spinning away in the hamster wheel? New Years and its resolutions are fast approaching!

End of the Year Reading List – 2018

2018 has been flying by for me! Does anyone else feel like it’s still the beginning of the year, and not actually December? This has been a busy year and I’ve neglected a lot of hobbies while trying to balance work, classes, family, friends, travel, and 1,000 other things. Unfortunately, time for blogging was the first thing to be reallocated to other areas. But, as an early resolution for 2019, I’m bringing the blog back to life.

We’ll start simple, though. I have several post ideas that I’ve been kicking around, but they need more time for me to really flesh out before they land on the internet forever. Today, I’m just going to talk a bit about the books I want to read or finish reading by the time New Years Eve rolls around.

Currently Reading

  • The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
    • This is set in the same world as The Paper Magician trilogy, but seemingly long after the events for the third book. Holmberg did write in a brief cameo of the Mgs. Thane, and I believe that Alvie’s love interest’s teacher is the Folder that Ceony tested under in the third book. I’m about 50% of the way through The Plastic Magician and really enjoying that the tone is very different from the original trilogy.
  • Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories edited by Audrey Niffenegger
    • I’ve been picking my way through this since October, but would like to finish it before the end of the year.
  • Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
    • As someone with a BA in Philosophy, I was already aware that philosophers have the worst sense of humor before picking this up, and my opinion hasn’t changed since. I’ve been slowly making my way through this book since July. I’m finding that it’s a very shallow primer on various schools of thought and it isn’t doing a great job of either granting an understanding nor being funny. I’m probably going to be reading this well into 2019.

Want To Read

  • Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising by Alan Martin, Illustrated by Rufus Dayglo
    • I’m making my way through the reboots of Tank Girl, in no particular order. I re-read The Gifting last month and already owned Bad Wind Rising, so despite being published a number of years later, Bad Wind Rising is next up.
  • Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: The Crucible by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Illustrated by Robert Hack
    • I’d like to read this before I watch the Netflix adaptation. Also, dark Sabrina makes me happy.
  • Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose
    • Did you guys know Bourdain wrote a comic series? I didn’t know this, and was floored to find it at an indie bookshop here in Philly.
  • Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker, Illustrated by Julia Scheele
    • I can’t wait to get started on this. I’ve had Queer on my wishlist for several months and bought it at the same bookshop I found Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts.
  • MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation edited by Michelle Stengel
    • This is a collection of 18 urban fantasy crime stories that I helped back on Kickstarter earlier this year. It’d be nice to read what I helped fund, wouldn’t it?
  • The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
    • Rossner is an Israeli author and her characters are Jewish; it’s also currently Chanukah and I think it would be nice to read a book with Jewish characters during the holiday.

A lot of people around the internet are coming up with their end of the year reading lists, so if you have one, please feel free to share!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Genre: Horror

Rating: 4/5

Format: Paperback and e-book

This is easily one of the best horror books I’ve read in years. If there is any book I’ve read so far this year that I would call a “real page-turner,” Bird Box is the one. This was a terrifying and gripping read, which is honestly difficult for me to find in the horror genre. Most of the horror books I read I find to be a little creepy and more of a supernatural mystery than an actual pulse-quickener that induces an “OMG NO” sick feeling in my gut. It’s the same with horror movies for me; I find most rely too much on jump-scares and special effects to startle the viewer, rather than having unsettling, terror-fueling content.

Malerman takes the fears of the unknown and losing one’s sight and knocks them sideways in his debut novel. He also wastes no time in getting to the point of the story: People are going insane because they are seeing someone… or something. In their fear, people are refusing to go outside, boarding up windows and hiding behind locked doors. But it doesn’t seem to be enough. Accidents happen and temptation is too great, and people are still peeking outside; some are even going crazy from being so isolated. Malorie loses everyone in her life just as she figures out that she’s pregnant, and she decides that in order to survive, she needs to find a house she saw advertised in the personals section of the newspaper. A house that promises to be open to anyone looking for somewhere to go in this new world of fear and panic. Only a few months after she arrives, she and her two children are the last surviving members of the little enclave. Several years pass and she realizes that today is The Day. She needs to get to the boat and guide her small family down the river to what she hopes is their salvation, but she’ll need need to use her eyes to get them there.

What makes this book so successful is that we know just as much about these creatures as our main character- absolutely nothing. We follow Malorie’s journey with the same blindness she is forced to endure, hoping she (we) make it out alive. We rely on sound and touch just as much as Malorie does, and we know we cannot open our eyes to see what is probably standing in front of us. Bird Box taps into the visceral fear of not knowing what’s stalking you in the dark. There are multiple events that bring us thisclose to the creatures, and each one makes you more tense and nervous than the last. I became so emotionally invested in Malorie and her journey that I had a hard time putting the book down. When she was scared, I was scared. When she was relieved or emotionally wiped out, so was I. I nearly nawed a finger off towards the end of her river journey, I was so nervous.

We never get answers, which can be really frustrating in stories like these. I’ve read a number of horror books, particularly post-apocalypse books, that never explain the Whys and Hows of what happened and it is often unsatisfying. But the way Malerman crafted this story was genius, because I really didn’t want to find out the Who or the How or the Why. It too easily would have ruined the suspense created by not knowing these things. Not showing the Who leaves the reader’s imagination open to it’s own interpretation of what is wandering around, which I feel is the best way to really immerse the reader in the story.

If you are interested in reading this book, I highly recommend reading it on a day when you don’t have any laundry to do, or a job to go to, and to have your meals delivered or prepared by someone else in the house. I read this over a few days because I was working and otherwise attending to life, but all I wanted to do was finish the book. When I started reading it, I got an email from one of the several mailing lists I’ve found myself on that alerted me to the fact that Bird Box‘s e-book format was on sale for $1.99 and immediately purchased it. I was reading the book whenever I could squeeze a few minutes out of my day, and thinking about it when I wasn’t able to read it. I almost feel like I can’t do the book any justice with a review, because I can’t sufficiently describe how quickly I was sucked into the story and how invested in the plot I became.

The film rights were purchased by Universal in 2013, but so far there hasn’t been any public discussion of an actual movie. I’m honestly hoping that they decide not to follow through with turning the book into a movie. I fear that they will turn our somewhat incorporeal adversary into a real creature, and it will ruin the effect Malerman created by never describing them to us.

June 2017 Wrap-Up

At the beginning of every month, I will do a quick wrap-up of the previous month’s reads.

I finished seven books in June.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  2. Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  3. The Blue Fox by Sjón
  4. Hard Child by Natalie Shapero
  5. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  6. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  7. Goodnight Lab: A Scientific Parody by Chris Ferrie

The Handmaid’s Tale was my book club’s pick for the month of June. It was the only 5 star read of the month, and I have to say that I’m very eager to read more from Atwood now. This novel gave me a lot to think about, and I’m currently working on a review for the blog.

Enclave was a bit of a disappointment for me. I only rated this book 2.5 stars because I was not impressed by the character development and the book’s treatment of rape and victim blaming. This was a post-apocalyptic YA novel that had a very interesting premise and it was an engaging read as a whole, but in the end, I just couldn’t get beyond the two issues I just mentioned.

The Blue Fox was my second favorite read of the month. I rated it 4.5 stars and have already posted a short review of it here on the blog.

Hard Child was my most disappointing read in June. I rated the collection 2 stars. I went in expecting to really enjoy this collection of poems because the overarching theme per the blurb on the back of the book sounded great. Unfortunately, very few poems had an impact on me. A small handful did, however, which is why this wasn’t a total bust.

I finished up The Paper Magician trilogy, which I gave a solid 4 stars across the board. I’m usually very critical with romance in YA novels because it’s either a love triangle or a creepy age difference, the latter of which this series falls into. However, there is a pretty decent backbone for this plot point, and I had to remind myself that while Ceony is a good deal younger than Emery, she is over 18. Besides that, I found the magic system very interesting and it was a comfortable series to settle into.

Finally, I read Goodnight Lab, which is a parody of Goodnight Moon. The lab monkey by night that I am, I definitely appreciated this picture book. I rated it 3 stars for it’s humor and for featuring a female POC main character, but otherwise, it was just another children’s book parody in a sea of children’s book parodies.

Mid-Year Wrap-Up

It’s almost the end of June, and I think it’s time to look back at the past six months of reading and see how it’s gone.

I use Goodreads’ Reading Challenge to track my reading through the year. I currently have a goal of 52 books, and I’ve read 29 books so far, which puts me four books ahead of “schedule”. One of the things that I really like about the Reading Challenge is that you can easily see all of the books you read during the year, which makes it very easy for me to break my reading down into some simple categories.

What I’ve read:

  • 7 ebooks
  • 18 paperbacks
  • 4 hardcovers

Of these 29 books:

  • 2 were poetry collections
  • 2 were graphic anthologies
  • 3 were nonfiction
  • 6 were YA or middle grade
  • 16 were fiction, horror, crime, or fantasy/magical realism
  • 48% were written by women, 45% by men, and 7% by self-defined non-binary or trans individuals
  • 3.5 were written by POC
  • 7767 pages read total

I’m okay with my gender breakdown, though I would like to see the non-binary and trans author count go up. I’m not happy with my overwhelmingly white author count. I will be trying to make an effort to diversify my authors for the rest of the year. I have several poetry collections and plays written by POC that I already wanted to read, but I will also be pulling more fiction titles written by POC. I’d also like to read more nonfiction.

Now that I’ve started this blog, I want to dedicate more time to writing reviews of the books I’ve been reading. So, a big goal of mine for the next six months is less about reading and more about writing. This will require some serious work, because writing a decent review takes time. But, because this is something I’ve been hoping to start working on for a long time, I’m definitely motivated!

I’ve had several really amazing reads so far, so it’s hard to pick which one I liked the best, but I think The Handmaid’s Tale is currently tied with The Blue Fox as far as deep thinkers are concerned. My favorite fun read is Tony Ballantyne’s Dream London, a series that I actually read backwards unknowingly. As far as the least enjoyed reads so far this year go, The Forest of Hands and Teeth takes first place. I was surprised by how invested I became in The Paper Magician trilogy, which makes up half of the young adult I read these last six months. This has been a pretty good last six months, with mostly four and five star reads, which I hope continues on for the rest of the year!

I’m currently working on a review for The Handmaid’s Tale, which was my book club’s June read, as well as a review for The Bird Box, which is a gripping horror novel (and it was a debut novel for the author, which is pretty amazing). Have a great reading week!