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A book about losing your place, finding your purpose, and immersing yourself in what holds community, and humanity, together—books Wendy Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. When the opportunity to escape a toxic work environment and run to a struggling Virginia coal mining town presented itself, they took it. And took the plunge into starting the A book about losing your place, finding your purpose, and immersing yourself in what holds community, and humanity, together—books Wendy Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. When the opportunity to escape a toxic work environment and run to a struggling Virginia coal mining town presented itself, they took it. And took the plunge into starting their dream as well. They chose to ignore the “death of the book,” the closing of bookstores across the nation, and the difficult economic environment, and six years later they have carved a bookstore—and a life—out of an Appalachian mountain community. A story of beating bad odds with grace, ingenuity, good books, and single malt, this memoir chronicles two bibliophiles discovering unlikely ways in which daily living and literature intertwine. Their customers—"Bob the Mad Irishman," "Wee Willie," and "The Lady Who Liked Romances," to name a few—come to the shop looking for the kind of interactive wisdom Kindles don't spark, and they find friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book in good company. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap will make you want to run to the local bookstore, and curl up in an arm chair with a treasure in bound pages.


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A book about losing your place, finding your purpose, and immersing yourself in what holds community, and humanity, together—books Wendy Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. When the opportunity to escape a toxic work environment and run to a struggling Virginia coal mining town presented itself, they took it. And took the plunge into starting the A book about losing your place, finding your purpose, and immersing yourself in what holds community, and humanity, together—books Wendy Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. When the opportunity to escape a toxic work environment and run to a struggling Virginia coal mining town presented itself, they took it. And took the plunge into starting their dream as well. They chose to ignore the “death of the book,” the closing of bookstores across the nation, and the difficult economic environment, and six years later they have carved a bookstore—and a life—out of an Appalachian mountain community. A story of beating bad odds with grace, ingenuity, good books, and single malt, this memoir chronicles two bibliophiles discovering unlikely ways in which daily living and literature intertwine. Their customers—"Bob the Mad Irishman," "Wee Willie," and "The Lady Who Liked Romances," to name a few—come to the shop looking for the kind of interactive wisdom Kindles don't spark, and they find friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book in good company. The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap will make you want to run to the local bookstore, and curl up in an arm chair with a treasure in bound pages.

30 review for The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book

  1. 5 out of 5

    C.

    * Thank-you to friends and peers who read my early drafts! I have trimmed this review to the points I want to highlight. I usually get feedback to 300 words * I chose “The Little Bookstore Of Big Stone Gap”, 2012, as a prize and loved the first half. Wendy Welch had the courage to start the career she wanted. Her husband, Jack is Scottish and she travelled, therefore there is an unexpected flavour of universality. Americans usually target themselves. She exudes awareness of culture, like Gaelic s * Thank-you to friends and peers who read my early drafts! I have trimmed this review to the points I want to highlight. I usually get feedback to 300 words * I chose “The Little Bookstore Of Big Stone Gap”, 2012, as a prize and loved the first half. Wendy Welch had the courage to start the career she wanted. Her husband, Jack is Scottish and she travelled, therefore there is an unexpected flavour of universality. Americans usually target themselves. She exudes awareness of culture, like Gaelic slang. I was in harmony with many messages, like their community respite. How to garner customers was informative, for a private, local seller. I was dismayed they dumped books. Hospitals and shelters want them. We snap up “National Geographic”. Wendy & Jack seem lovely, so I couldn't believe they found it difficult to react to tragedy. I can't believe Wendy's response to pets dying tragically was “That sucks”! I am most appalled her friend KEPT a cat, similar to one she was missing! We insist upon finding ours and would admonish anyone who didn't work at locating us! If Wendy's friend made that effort, it left a bad impression not to clarify that. Repetitive rants rose. A list of 11 favourites, including authors and publication years, would be a treat. Not reviews, with a “These should be everyone's favourites” attitude. Insisting that the “Charlotte's Web” opener should excite everyone, which I despised for attempting to kill an infant pig, turned me off! Don't be pushy and skip a least-favourites review rampage. I am in accord that physical books give us many elements e-books don't. The point was diluted by barraging against “box stores”. New merchandise is a separate field. I am grateful for all physical options, including Amazon. New stock becomes second-hand. I obtain what I seek wherever it is cheapest and available: normally second-hand, locally. Argumentativeness and wordy adjectives needed toning-down. This book was so enjoyable and informative, I didn't foresee three stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Everyone told Wendy Welch and her husband, Scottish folk singer Jack Beck, that they were crazy when they decided to open a used bookstore in a small Appalachian Coalfields town in the middle of a recession. “Hope coupled with hard work can trump even stupidity,” she contends, and during their first few years in business they “limped more or less confidently in the direction of our dream: a peaceful and fun life full of books in a community that we appreciated, and that appreciated us.” They live Everyone told Wendy Welch and her husband, Scottish folk singer Jack Beck, that they were crazy when they decided to open a used bookstore in a small Appalachian Coalfields town in the middle of a recession. “Hope coupled with hard work can trump even stupidity,” she contends, and during their first few years in business they “limped more or less confidently in the direction of our dream: a peaceful and fun life full of books in a community that we appreciated, and that appreciated us.” They lived above the shop and initially stocked it with their own library plus books picked up cheap at yard sales – though Welch later learned to be much more choosy about what they added to their inventory and to tailor their selections to the tastes of country readers. They gave out store credit in exchange for books, and drummed up business via bookmarks handed out at the nearest Walmart. Essentially, they were making it all up as they went along, but eight years later they’re still a community fixture in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. (I’d love to visit someday.) For the most part that’s because they branched out to fill other roles: serving light meals; hosting cultural events, murder mystery evenings, a writing group, a crafting circle, and regular Quaker meetings; and getting to know their customers. I appreciated the details about the nitty-gritty of running a bookstore (like a chapter on pricing) more than the customer interaction; after all, I wouldn’t really fit the bill according to Welch: “The essential criterion for running a bookstore is less ‘Do you like books?’ than ‘Do you like people?’” There’s a bit of a kitchen-sink inclusiveness to this memoir, as if Welch was desperate to cram in absolutely everything she’d ever thought or learned about running a used bookstore. Or maybe she was under pressure from her publisher to expand the book. I thought it could easily have lost 50 pages or so. Still, it’s a warm and fuzzy book-lover’s delight. Some favorite lines: “Having our personal collection in the shop not only made us instant inventory experts, but it turned the whole enterprise into something like an adoption agency. We felt a vested interest in seeing the little guys go to good homes.” “Let me take this moment to beseech you to store your books well; they want to live in the same climate you do, not too hot or cold, neither too wet nor dry. Treat them as though they are relatives you like, and they will reward you by holding their value and resisting silverfish.” “Bibliophiles recognize that books are not just ideas trapped between covers, but artifacts, mile markers on our life journey.” “The rush of happy endorphins from matching the right books with the right people fuels bookshop owners; it provides our natural high.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    If you've ever dreamed of owning your own bookshop, you should read this book. It's a charming (albeit overlong) memoir of a married couple who bought an old house in a small town in Virginia and turned the first floor into a used bookstore. (Wendy and her husband live upstairs.) The early chapters detail them getting the store set up, trying to find inventory, learning how to set up credit swaps with customers, etc. After that, each chapter covers different aspects of what it's really like to r If you've ever dreamed of owning your own bookshop, you should read this book. It's a charming (albeit overlong) memoir of a married couple who bought an old house in a small town in Virginia and turned the first floor into a used bookstore. (Wendy and her husband live upstairs.) The early chapters detail them getting the store set up, trying to find inventory, learning how to set up credit swaps with customers, etc. After that, each chapter covers different aspects of what it's really like to run a bookshop, especially when it becomes an unofficial community center in the town. And since it's a small town, there are a few political squabbles, but the two owners have managed to overcome the odds and created a vibrant little bookstore that hosts knitting groups, writing groups, murder mystery games, and musicians. I enjoyed her stories, but Wendy's writing needed some editing because it could be tedious. For example, I had to skip the chapter on their cats patrolling the store because it reminded me of that irksome Dewey the Library Cat book. (I can only handle so much cuteness in a memoir.) But overall, this was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to bookish friends.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sue Gerth

    I liked this book, but my one issue is with the constant comments on how big box bookstores have no soul. My bookstore is chock full of employees who love to read, work in a bookstore because they love to read, and are always talking about books to each other and customers. I give book talks both in and out of our store; we have a wonderful community relations manager who school librarians know by name, and a large staff recommends area. This may not be true for all big box bookstores, but it is I liked this book, but my one issue is with the constant comments on how big box bookstores have no soul. My bookstore is chock full of employees who love to read, work in a bookstore because they love to read, and are always talking about books to each other and customers. I give book talks both in and out of our store; we have a wonderful community relations manager who school librarians know by name, and a large staff recommends area. This may not be true for all big box bookstores, but it is true for ours. We are part of our community and plan on keeping it that way. Everyone needs to support their local bookstores--both big and small, new and used. There is nothing like stepping into a bookstore, inhaling that wonderful aroma of books, and as Wendy Welch puts it--that particular "hum" shelves of books have. It is true. They are magic. You can't get that online. And I'd rather have a real live person talk to me and recommend books to me than a computer generated program that just guesses. My experience with customers is the more questions you ask, the better you can direct them to what they're looking for--or try something new. All of these things are worth spending a little extra money and keeping things local. stepping off my soap box now :)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This memoir (about opening a used bookstore in a small town in Southwestern Virginia) and I "met cute." You see, on Valentine's Day, I happened to go to Manhattan and unexpectedly finished the book I was reading on the train in. I needed something to read on the ride back to Queens. So I popped into the Jefferson Market branch of the NYPL (possibly the most beautiful branch library ever, incidentally). They had this amazing Valentine's Day "Go on a blind date with a book" display table set up, w This memoir (about opening a used bookstore in a small town in Southwestern Virginia) and I "met cute." You see, on Valentine's Day, I happened to go to Manhattan and unexpectedly finished the book I was reading on the train in. I needed something to read on the ride back to Queens. So I popped into the Jefferson Market branch of the NYPL (possibly the most beautiful branch library ever, incidentally). They had this amazing Valentine's Day "Go on a blind date with a book" display table set up, with all the books on it wrapped up in pink tissue paper, decorated with hearts, tied up with pretty yarn. It was impossible to see what the titles were. Instead, each book had a little blurb taped to it, written in the first person, in the manner of a personals ad. I chose this one: If you can't easily make out what the blurb says, it reads "I'm relaxed and down-to-earth. I enjoy lazy Saturdays at bookstores where everyone known [sic] you name." It was an easy choice for me -- a bookstore is my ideal place for a date, and I can forgive the occasional typo. I checked it out feeling a little bit embarrassed to be so thrilled by it all, but the librarian seemed quite pleased by my enthusiasm. I begged him not to reveal what the book was as he typed in the code, and he played along by pursing his lips and raising his eyebrows, as though in shock, when the title came up. Now I have to confess that I didn't actually read my blind date on the way home. I read the other book I checked out, the one whose title I could see. Basically, I just loved looking at the pretty pink package and wondering what it could be, and wanted to prolong that. It may have been the best Valentine's Day ever (which BTW, my husband and I don't particularly celebrate, although that morning he had made me a very nice bowl of oatmeal with apples cooked in cinnamon and brown sugar mixed into it). When I did eventually rip off the wrapping, at home, after taking the picture, I was pleased to see that the book was something I might have chosen to check out had I seen what it actually was (in fact, later I realized that I had entered a giveaway for it -- unsuccessfully, natch -- a few months back). And how did our blind date go? Well, we both had a good time, and the book was chatty and nice, but I think we had an unspoken understanding early on that this wasn't going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. The fact is, reading about a bookstore can never be as wonderful as visiting one, and the prose here doesn't really sing, and the chapters are sometimes short and choppy. I was also a touch dismayed at the author's repeated statement that they don't sell rare books in her store because that's not what her customers are interested in. There's why the book and I aren't a match made in heaven in a nutshell: I go to used bookstores because I love to hunt for rare books -- for everything else there's the library. I was reminded of some of the entries in The Used Book Lover's Guide to New England (Used Book Lovers' Guide Series) and its related volumes, which I wore to pieces back in the 1990s before such reference works were completely supplanted by the internet. One of the most damningly dismissive (often unfairly so) statements the authors had in their repertoire is along the lines of "it serves its local population well," as in "don't bother going out of your way." But would I go to The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap if I had the chance? Oh yes, because it is just as impossible to not go into a used bookstore as it is to not read a memoir about running one that falls into your hands in a charmingly serendipitous way. The author has a facebook page where you can see not only the lovely old house in which the store makes its home, but also many charming pictures of cats and kittens: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tales-o... And here's a video tour made by the author's husband: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03cmGd... Yes, I have no doubt that this bookstore serves its (lucky) community well, and I've no regrets about going out on the date.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John

    Well ... I finally finished the book, so on to the review ... which isn't necessarily a good thing, as I'm of two minds here. I want to be fair, but I came away feeling that the author is rather taken with herself. If others feel it's unfair, I'm not going to dispute them, but the book could've been subtitled " ...Bringing Culture to the Yokels" just as easily; I was reminded a bit of the Gone Girl protagonist who laughed at the locals behind their backs. Her husband, on the other hand, seemed l Well ... I finally finished the book, so on to the review ... which isn't necessarily a good thing, as I'm of two minds here. I want to be fair, but I came away feeling that the author is rather taken with herself. If others feel it's unfair, I'm not going to dispute them, but the book could've been subtitled " ...Bringing Culture to the Yokels" just as easily; I was reminded a bit of the Gone Girl protagonist who laughed at the locals behind their backs. Her husband, on the other hand, seemed like a genuinely nice guy. One item that annoyed the hell out of me were her regular use of Briticisms (from an American, granted who'd lived over there for a long time, living in the States, writing for a largely American audience) and then feeling it necessary to explain them at times, which I found flat out condescending. Her bragging about a large advance (which mystified me as the book isn't all that remarkable) was another "Ugh!" moment. In the author's defense, another reviewer criticized that there weren't enough examples of interaction with customers, and I found that wasn't the case at all. I felt I got to know them fairly well. There was even an episode that caused me to choke up, and that's a rare occurrence. Three stars, as two would be too low, but I can't recommend this one with much enthusiasm. The bookstore business aspect didn't say much I didn't already know, and there are plenty of books out there by educated folks settling in small town America. Also, even though the author makes it clear that they didn't have a lot of money after sinking their savings into the store, it had the feel of a dilettante (hobby) adventure for me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    I like books about books and bookstores, and needed something light, with no moralizing or deep themes to think about to round out my January reading, and this one fit the bill. A couple buy a house in a small town in Virginia, and turn the downstairs into a bookstore. With no money and no experience, they actually make a go of it and settle into the community. It's full of anecdotes about the bookstore and their clientele, and each chapter starts with a literary quote. A nice little interlude f I like books about books and bookstores, and needed something light, with no moralizing or deep themes to think about to round out my January reading, and this one fit the bill. A couple buy a house in a small town in Virginia, and turn the downstairs into a bookstore. With no money and no experience, they actually make a go of it and settle into the community. It's full of anecdotes about the bookstore and their clientele, and each chapter starts with a literary quote. A nice little interlude for me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jacqie

    I worked in an independent bookstore for 10 years. Many, many people came up to me to say "Oh, you're so lucky to work in a bookstore! You just get to read all day!" I always smiled. But that is _not_ what it's like to work in a bookstore, unless you never have any customers. In a bookstore, you inspect and trade for books, shelve books, sell books, buy books for inventory, return books that didn't sell, make displays, manage staff, schedule and run events both on and off-site, inventory, invent I worked in an independent bookstore for 10 years. Many, many people came up to me to say "Oh, you're so lucky to work in a bookstore! You just get to read all day!" I always smiled. But that is _not_ what it's like to work in a bookstore, unless you never have any customers. In a bookstore, you inspect and trade for books, shelve books, sell books, buy books for inventory, return books that didn't sell, make displays, manage staff, schedule and run events both on and off-site, inventory, inventory, inventory the stock, do the books, clean, sort and organize (nothing ever stays where you want it)and, of course, work with customers, which in itself is a fairly long list of things to do. This is a book about two of those people who thought it would be fun to own a bookstore with absolutely no idea of how to go about it. And to their credit, they actually survived- I'm still not quite sure how, but I'm guessing internet sales have a lot to do with it. I guess I didn't really care for the author. Although she says she doesn't judge what others read, she seems judgy to me, with her disdain of Richard Patterson and Dean Koontz. She seems rather snooty for a used book slinger, although maybe she just wants to deal with rare antiques. And really, there was almost nothing about actually running the store. There were some anecdotes, but details? There was nothing I grabbed onto as a bookseller and said "oh, yeah, that happens." And I wanted that kind of connection. This book probably is better if you haven't actually worked in a bookstore.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    This book is a delight for all of us book lovers! This is the true story of Wendy Welch and her husband who leave their high stress jobs to follow a dream they shared - to own a bookstore. Did they have experience? No. Did they always know what they were doing? No. Was it a good time to chuck it all and escape to a little, slowly dying, town in the Appalachians? A BIG NO. But they did it. Did they struggle? Oh yes they did. Did they give up? No they did not. Their timing actually could not have be This book is a delight for all of us book lovers! This is the true story of Wendy Welch and her husband who leave their high stress jobs to follow a dream they shared - to own a bookstore. Did they have experience? No. Did they always know what they were doing? No. Was it a good time to chuck it all and escape to a little, slowly dying, town in the Appalachians? A BIG NO. But they did it. Did they struggle? Oh yes they did. Did they give up? No they did not. Their timing actually could not have been worse. The economy was tanking, e books were all the rage, but they fought on. They could not have known how the little town would gather around and embrace them and their dream. A touching story about perseverance in the face of possible failure, of being determined to continue to follow your dream, and a story about caring for your fellow human being more than building a fortune.

  10. 5 out of 5

    William Graney

    After awarding the stars I went through and read the Good Reads reviews. There is a lot of love for this book so I don't feel too bad about being one of the few contrarians. I was very annoyed by the author's constant need to remind the reader of her advanced degrees and I found her efforts at writing in an oh-so-clever and charming style to be unnatural. I also didn't think there was enough here for a book. To me it read more like blog entries or a magazine series. First it was about the booksh After awarding the stars I went through and read the Good Reads reviews. There is a lot of love for this book so I don't feel too bad about being one of the few contrarians. I was very annoyed by the author's constant need to remind the reader of her advanced degrees and I found her efforts at writing in an oh-so-clever and charming style to be unnatural. I also didn't think there was enough here for a book. To me it read more like blog entries or a magazine series. First it was about the bookshop, then it was about a road trip to visit bookshops, and finally it was about her book club discussions. The fact that she bashed A Prayer For Owen Meany didn't win her stars in my view either.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bskinner

    The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is not a book I would have chosen. Had I seen the title in a bookstore, real or virtual, I would have had no desire to read about a used bookstore in Big Stone Gap. The only reason I own it is because it was a birthday gift from my best friend. Which is also the only reason I read it, although I moved it around on my coffee table for three months before I undertook the task of reading it. I L-O-V-E-D the book. I savored the words. I read it aloud to my husba The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is not a book I would have chosen. Had I seen the title in a bookstore, real or virtual, I would have had no desire to read about a used bookstore in Big Stone Gap. The only reason I own it is because it was a birthday gift from my best friend. Which is also the only reason I read it, although I moved it around on my coffee table for three months before I undertook the task of reading it. I L-O-V-E-D the book. I savored the words. I read it aloud to my husband when he wandered by and I was reading it. I made myself read it more slowly when the pages under my right hand became a smaller stack than the pages under my left. I rarely read books again but this one will be read again. Why did I love it so? The story captures your imagination—leaving the rat race of the big city to open up a used bookstore in a tiny town. The cast of characters is wonderful and authentic (I am a native southwest Virginian). But perhaps what is most compelling is that the while the Welches were working to establish their shop in Big Stone, they established themselves in Big Stone. They became a part of the town and the town is now a part of them. I love Mayberry and I love Mitford, but perhaps I now love Big Stone Gap better because there is a bookstore there where the books hum, friends meet to do needlework and even cats learn how to be friends. Road trip anyone?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anne Bogel

    3 stars for craft, 5 stars for subject matter. If you're intrigued by a behind the scenes look at getting a used bookstore up and running, read it!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Care

    This book, frankly, was a surprise for me. I picked it up and agreed to review it mostly because I am a sucker for books about books and bookish people. What I didn’t expect was that it would actually be so well written, solidly edited, funny, heart-warming, and informative. Wendy Welch and her Scottish husband, Jack Beck, bought a charming, huge Victorian home in the town of Big Stone Gap, West Virginia, with the sole intent of transforming it into a used bookstore. Unfortunately, they had a cou This book, frankly, was a surprise for me. I picked it up and agreed to review it mostly because I am a sucker for books about books and bookish people. What I didn’t expect was that it would actually be so well written, solidly edited, funny, heart-warming, and informative. Wendy Welch and her Scottish husband, Jack Beck, bought a charming, huge Victorian home in the town of Big Stone Gap, West Virginia, with the sole intent of transforming it into a used bookstore. Unfortunately, they had a couple of things working against them. Big Stone Gap is not exactly an area that welcomes strangers into its midst and its economically depressed state does not make it a prime zone in which to open a business. However, the Beck-Welch team was undaunted and Wendy, in her breezy, humorous style carries her readers through their many experiences as they built their inventory of books and friendships. Perhaps what sets this book above others of its kind is the added insight that Wendy gives into some of the lesser know aspects of owning a bookstore. I love the stories she tells about the more emotional aspects, such as those people who bring in book collections of those loved ones who have passed away, and what it is like to be the store owner who must on the one hand transact the business of divesting the bereaved of the books, but on the other hand be sensitive to the fact that this is a part of a loved one that the person is letting go of. There are many, many such personal stories in this book, each of them singular and touching and showing a different aspect of their lives not only as owners of the bookstore, but as members of their unique community. I mistakenly assumed that life in a small town bookstore would become routine and expected the book might get a bit soporific at times, but Wendy showed me that their life is full of rich relationships and lessons learned, and I enjoyed the chance to experience Big Stone Gap and their book store right along side them. Wendy and her husband also use their bookstore to host many other types of activities that enriched their community, and her sharing these events adds a good deal of interest to the book. In addition, Jack and Wendy went on a tour of other indie bookstores, the narrative of which makes for some good reading. Finally, she shares lots of reviews of her favorite books to recommend, as you might expect from someone who spends her days surrounded by and selling books. This is a solid read about a couple with a dream, how their marriage weathers the making of their business, life in a small town, friendship, selling books, and a few life lessons learned along the way. Wendy’s lovely writing will touch your heart and your funny bone in turns, making this a read for many moods. I definitely recommend this one.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Relyn

    I have picked up this book several times and never actually read it since the cover is just so BLAH. I am so glad I finally did. I spent a wonderful day last Saturday visiting Big Stone Gap, making new friends, settling into a new community, and opening a used book store along with Wendy and Jack. What a great afternoon.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    As of this date, Goodreads says this edition has 500 pages. It does not, only 391. That being said I read this book in a fairly short time. I really became engaged to the character of this story, mainly Wendy, Jack and the cats, Beulah and Val-Kyttie. Wendy Welch and her husband, Scottish-born Jack Beck, leave the Snake Pit of her current job to find a quiet, more relaxed life. Their search leads them to a struggling Virginia coal-mining town and a wonderful "old" house that seems perfect. They As of this date, Goodreads says this edition has 500 pages. It does not, only 391. That being said I read this book in a fairly short time. I really became engaged to the character of this story, mainly Wendy, Jack and the cats, Beulah and Val-Kyttie. Wendy Welch and her husband, Scottish-born Jack Beck, leave the Snake Pit of her current job to find a quiet, more relaxed life. Their search leads them to a struggling Virginia coal-mining town and a wonderful "old" house that seems perfect. They soon find that they are ill prepared for the logistics of their endeavor , but with grace and good old-fashioned chutzpah they soldier on. As they struggle to build inventory, they find friends and a few foes that help them in their journey. Wendy Welch tells their story with humor, candor and love. This book makes me want to continue to support my local businesses and wish for a used bookstore, like Tales of the Lonesome Pine, in my hometown.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through First Reads. All opinions are my own. This was an enjoyable, easy read. It made me want to run down to my own local used bookstore and buy a huge pile of books. (Nevermind the piles I already have to read.) The stories of their customers both cracked me up (small town people seem to be the same no matter the state) and broke my heart a little (I cried more than once). I especially enjoyed one of the final chapters, wherein the author lists h Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through First Reads. All opinions are my own. This was an enjoyable, easy read. It made me want to run down to my own local used bookstore and buy a huge pile of books. (Nevermind the piles I already have to read.) The stories of their customers both cracked me up (small town people seem to be the same no matter the state) and broke my heart a little (I cried more than once). I especially enjoyed one of the final chapters, wherein the author lists her favorite--and least favorite!--books. It was like sitting down for a chat with an old friend. The book was really just a delight. It made me want to pack my bags and take a trip to Virginia, purely to stop at their shop, pet their cats, and join them on Needlework Night. I think any book-lover will enjoy this. It's the perfect cheer-you-up-on-a-rainy-weekend read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Barb Terpstra

    Prepare yourself to be charmed by "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap". I was charmed to win this book from Goodreads (thank you GR!). If you love books, old houses, cats, and did I say books, you will enjoy this storey about Wendy and her husband Jack. Wendy and Jack had a dream of opening a bookstore . . . some day. Little did they know that some day would sneak up on them with the spur of the moment purchase of an Edwardian home in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Wendy and Jack put their hearts an Prepare yourself to be charmed by "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap". I was charmed to win this book from Goodreads (thank you GR!). If you love books, old houses, cats, and did I say books, you will enjoy this storey about Wendy and her husband Jack. Wendy and Jack had a dream of opening a bookstore . . . some day. Little did they know that some day would sneak up on them with the spur of the moment purchase of an Edwardian home in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Wendy and Jack put their hearts and souls into turning their new home into, well a home, and a bookstore. You will laugh with them, and shake their head with them as they make their dream become a reality. In fact, you will shake your head quite a bit, because in a sense their dream became a reality in spite of themselves. It goes to show that heart and determination can lead to success, even without a business plan. This is what I love about this story. Wendy and Jack's love and acceptance of each other, their adaptability to making their dream become reality, their love of books, their belief that a bookstore is not just a bookstore, but a community gathering place. They didn't realize the stories they would gather as they moved forward in their journey, and how the ripple effect of the bookstore would change not just them, but others as well. More things I love - the fact that they name book titles throughout, so I (and you) can add books to your read list (mine just gets longer and longer). The lovely quotes at the beginning of each chapter. The description of the bookstore, which sounds a lot like home. I also love the little stories they tell about "book reunions", the moment a browser runs across that great book they read, or had read to them, in their childhood. The following excerpt will give you an idea of Wendy's love for books: "I remember as a very young child being warned that libraries and bookstores were quiet places where noises wasn't allowed. Here was yet another thing that adults had gotten wrong, for these book houses pulsed with sounds; they just weren't nois. The books hummed. The collective noise they made was like riding on a large boat where the motor's steady hum and tickle vibrated below one's sneakers, ignoble until you listened, then omnipresent and relentless, the sound that carried you forward. Each book brimmed with noises it wanted to make inside your head the moment you opened it; only the shut covers prevented it from shouting ideas, impulses, proverbs and plots into that sterile silence. What an enigma (a word my young self wouldn't know for years) that such a false sense of quietude should be imposed on this obviously noisy place." I especially like the idea of books shouting out ideas, a great description of the feeling I get when I walk inside a bookstore, or spy a book on a friend's table or desk. I just have to pick up those books and take a peek inside. Sometimes it's all I can do to prevent myself from walking off with it. So, lovers of books, pick up this book for a journey through the celebrations and pitfalls of opening your very own bookstore. Enjoy!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kwoomac

    This book took me a while to get into because I just didn't like the author's voice. In spite of her insistence that she's a Quaker, who values others along with their difference, I sometimes found her to be petty. In fact, she describes her writing as whiny, neo-bitchy, self-centered prose and jokingly refers to a group of her friends as the Cynical Altruistic Bitches. She also frequently refers to her wicked dry sense of humor. I never saw any proof of that on the pages. Dry, yes, but not as i This book took me a while to get into because I just didn't like the author's voice. In spite of her insistence that she's a Quaker, who values others along with their difference, I sometimes found her to be petty. In fact, she describes her writing as whiny, neo-bitchy, self-centered prose and jokingly refers to a group of her friends as the Cynical Altruistic Bitches. She also frequently refers to her wicked dry sense of humor. I never saw any proof of that on the pages. Dry, yes, but not as in humor, more like tedious. What saved her is that she placed I Capture the Castle in her top ten books-it is also in mine. There is a lot of philosophizing. Welch talks a lot about the "third place", a place other than home or work which fills a need for the individual and community (think of the bar in "Cheers", where everybody knows your name). As such , Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books (quite the mouthful) offers much more than just books. They serve as a site for poetry readings, book clubs, knitting circles, Celtic music and dance, and Quaker Fellowship meetings. In addition to books, they serve soups and salads, and sell the crafts of local artists. 5 years into the venture, Welch considers the bookstore a success. What I have gleaned from my reading is that I should probably let go of my own fantasy of one day owning a used bookstore. Welch and her husband are just able to eke out a frugal living. Contributing to this are 1) the fact that they bought the property where they both live and sell books for cash, so have no mortgage, 2) Welch teaches at a local college to get health benefits for her and husband Jack, 3) Jack makes money hosting tours of Scotland, 4) together they perform as singers and story tellers at local festivals, and 5) Welch has written a (this) book. Not exactly a duplicable model. Goodbye fantasy bookstore.

  19. 4 out of 5

    LuAnn

    My love letter to Wendy Welch: Wendy, can I call you Wendy? I feel as though you are an old friend after finishing your book in one day! Took some time off over the holiday break, curled up with a hot cup of tea and your book before a roaring fire...I felt as though I was having the heart-to-heart I desperately needed. At year's end, this is one bookstore owner who was disheartened and definitely feeling bullied by eReaders and the like. You've inspired me to pull up my bootstraps and dust off the My love letter to Wendy Welch: Wendy, can I call you Wendy? I feel as though you are an old friend after finishing your book in one day! Took some time off over the holiday break, curled up with a hot cup of tea and your book before a roaring fire...I felt as though I was having the heart-to-heart I desperately needed. At year's end, this is one bookstore owner who was disheartened and definitely feeling bullied by eReaders and the like. You've inspired me to pull up my bootstraps and dust off the books that continue to sell (the ones that eReaders just don't do justice: first and foremost, children's books, cookbooks, art books, and graphic novels) and look for a new nest to house our little bookstore community. I just won't be convinced that the day will come when parents and grandparents will pull their children into their laps and read to them from a Kindle or Nook. Say it isn't so. With that dream in my heart, Afterwords Books will continue to make it our mission to provide an inviting atmosphere where families can enjoy books together. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Wishing you much continued success! A truly inspiring book about following your dreams (listening to your heart!) and nurturing what really matters.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lily

    What started as a fun read about a couple who decides to follow their dream of owning a used bookstore in quiet Appalachia turns into an annoying series of essays by an author who becomes increasingly unlikable. There's constant railing against big box stores. (I think she forgets that her secondhand items have to be born somewhere, and some of us don't have local indie booksellers.) A number of the chapters/stories don't actually have much to do with running a bookstore, like an entire chapter d What started as a fun read about a couple who decides to follow their dream of owning a used bookstore in quiet Appalachia turns into an annoying series of essays by an author who becomes increasingly unlikable. There's constant railing against big box stores. (I think she forgets that her secondhand items have to be born somewhere, and some of us don't have local indie booksellers.) A number of the chapters/stories don't actually have much to do with running a bookstore, like an entire chapter devoted to the author's favorite and least favorite books. (She hates A Prayer for Owen Meany. Really? WTF is wrong with you?) I guess she thinks highly of her own opinions. The author is judgmental and condescending. I don't know how she survives in a poor, rural environment. When she describes a scene in which she nearly laughed in the face of an adult who wants to learn to read, I wanted to punch her in the face.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I read this book as part of some research that I'm doing as part of writing my business plan (I'm working on a book related business idea). I found it to be interesting in many ways but it didn't completely work for me. The insider's look into the starting of a used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, VA was fantastic. That is where the book shines. There is a great deal of great content around starting and running a bookstore. As well as just a complete and utter love for books. All of that was amazing I read this book as part of some research that I'm doing as part of writing my business plan (I'm working on a book related business idea). I found it to be interesting in many ways but it didn't completely work for me. The insider's look into the starting of a used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, VA was fantastic. That is where the book shines. There is a great deal of great content around starting and running a bookstore. As well as just a complete and utter love for books. All of that was amazing. The rest just didn't quite connect for me but I'm having a hard time identifying exactly what didn't exactly work for me. The later part of the book wasn't as strong as the earlier part of the book. But, overall, a good read for those who love books and bookstores!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I'm not sure why I liked this one so much, but was surprised to find it to be so much fun. Any book-lover will understand and enjoy this one for sure.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie A.

    This book is the stuff of dreams. How many of us, with a similar lack of business or bookselling experience, would love to just open a bookstore more or less on a whim? And this couple created the absolutely perfect one, because I cannot imagine a more idyllic-sounding setting. A secondhand bookstore set up inside a big, old house in a small town, with resident cats AND dogs?? I don't even know which part of that sentence is best. They were truly amateurs, stumbling around in the dark to get the This book is the stuff of dreams. How many of us, with a similar lack of business or bookselling experience, would love to just open a bookstore more or less on a whim? And this couple created the absolutely perfect one, because I cannot imagine a more idyllic-sounding setting. A secondhand bookstore set up inside a big, old house in a small town, with resident cats AND dogs?? I don't even know which part of that sentence is best. They were truly amateurs, stumbling around in the dark to get the hang of pricing, stocking inventory, and most of all advertising. Yes, they had the small safety net of living on the premises of their business and having a paid-off house to leverage against the new mortgage -- but if you had those things, wouldn't you be happy jumping in feet-first and taking a chance? Wendy seems like such a sweet, genuine, down to earth person. Everything about both her and this book reminds me of both what I think of as quintessentially American (despite her years living abroad in Scotland), and what makes me happy to live here. Jack sounds like quite a genial character as well, which I think is only fifty percent due to my delight in the connection to my own Scottish heritage on my dad's side. Together, they are definitely #MarriageGoals. What really makes this book work is the sweet, unassuming nature of Wendy's writing. She's as happy to fess up to bumbles and missteps as she is to beam about what went well. Her eagerness to use the bookstore to foster a sense of community (and later to literally foster & rescue cats) just makes you feel good. Her passion for books and connecting people to them just shines. Long story short, I loved vicariously following along on the journey to starting the store. I can't imagine that anyone else could tell a story quite like this one. I feel like my neighbor down the road suddenly landed a book deal, so light and conversational is her tone from beginning to end. Sadly, the little bookstore (Tales of the Lonesome Pine) closed this summer [2019]. The likelihood of my ever visiting it -- or anywhere else in Virginia or one of its bordering states -- was admittedly low to non-existent, but it's still a sad thought. The good news is that Wendy's blog is still up and running, so you can continue to follow her & Jack's adventures in life. The silver lining is that it inspired me to go find a more local independent used bookstore to support, and to my surprise, the one I visited even had a store dog! Which absolutely made my day.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Egbert

    I waffled between three and four stars on this one. So really this is a three and a half star rating. There were moments that I really enjoyed but there were also a few frustrations. I did enjoy it and it came at a time when I needed something light and upbeat, this was both. There are a number of quotes I want to remember from this book, some from the author and some she borrowed! "When you sell a person a book you don't just sell twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell a whole new li I waffled between three and four stars on this one. So really this is a three and a half star rating. There were moments that I really enjoyed but there were also a few frustrations. I did enjoy it and it came at a time when I needed something light and upbeat, this was both. There are a number of quotes I want to remember from this book, some from the author and some she borrowed! "When you sell a person a book you don't just sell twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell a whole new life. Love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book. -Christopher Motley, The Haunted Bookshop "I have always wanted to walk up to those scanner bookseller kids and smack the scanners out of their hands. 'It's a book, son, a book. That means it's valuable in and of itself, because it's about ideas. Have you read Light in August? Do you know the difference between Sylvia Plath and Iris Johansen? Now put that thing down and read something!' My secret fantasy." "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" -George Eliot, Middlemarch "There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized peace." -Woodrow Wilson (I thought this one especially important right now.) "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts." -Albert Einstein "That's the basic difference between price and value: one is calculated in dollars, the other in moments of memory Bookshop owners contribute order and balance in a crazy, tilting world by dealing from the privileged yet precarious position of knowing the difference between those two things." "Ignorance and bungling with love are better than wisdom and skill without." -Henry David Thoreau "If A equals success in life, then A equals XYX. X is work, Y is play, and Z is keeping your mouth shut." -Albert Einstein. "Physically entering a used bookshop is charming. Fantasy authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman created L-space to explain libraries. These magical buildings house more than the sum of their parts while time warps, bends, and refracts heedless of nature's laws. Bookstores have that and more. In B-space, book-lined walls buffer against the world's bustling while browsing calms the soul and satisfies the mind." "If only he would grin without talking, I thought, absolving myself with the Southern get-out-of-jail-free card for uncharitable speech by adding, Bless his heart." "I remember as a very young child being warned that libraries and bookstores were quiet places where noise wasn't allowed. Here was yet another thing the adults had gotten wrong, for these book houses pulsed with sounds; they just weren't noisy. The books hummed. Each book brimmed with noises it wanted to make inside your head the moment you opened it; only the shut covers prevented it from shouting ideas, impulses, proverbs, and plots into that sterile silence. Perhaps that's what makes people breathe slower in the bookstore; without knowing it, they adjust their rhythm to the gentle pulsing of the books." "It often requires more courage to read some books than it does to fight a battle." -Sutton E. Griggs "Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world." -Virginia Woolf, Street Haunting: A London Adventure "To be satisfied with a little, is the greatest wisdom; and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his cares; but a contented mind is a hidden treasure." -Akhenaten

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    3.5 - An enjoyable book written in a chatty style about a couple who followed their dreams and opened a used bookstore in a small Virginia town.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Risa

    Oh, to own my own used bookstore one day!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lynda

    A must for boostore lovers.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Brantly

    That was delightful! So many good quotes. Great feel good book for book lovers...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carin

    Wendy Welch and her husband Jack Beck own and run the Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books but more people know the store as the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap (yes, the same town that Adriana Trigiani is from and writes about.) It comprises the first floor of their house (they live on the second) and is a used bookstore they started more or less on a whim. Luckily they were both book hoarders previously, so when they started the store with mostly their own personal books, that still made up Wendy Welch and her husband Jack Beck own and run the Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books but more people know the store as the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap (yes, the same town that Adriana Trigiani is from and writes about.) It comprises the first floor of their house (they live on the second) and is a used bookstore they started more or less on a whim. Luckily they were both book hoarders previously, so when they started the store with mostly their own personal books, that still made up a few thousand, but it had exploded since then. The book is told more or less in chronological order, but the chapters are also about individual topics, such as how often and how they deal with book donors who are donating after a loved one's death, and how small town gossip has both hindered and helped their store. This book should be a must-read for anyone wanting to open a bookstore. Initially it's more of a cautionary tale of what not to do (start a bookstore on a whim in a very small close-knit town you're new to, without sufficient stock), but Wendy and Jack do learn through the years (and I really loved their tour throughout the upper Southeast and lower Midwest of other bookstores and how they picked up some Best Practices elsewhere that they brought home) and they have a few great ideas of their own (I was very impressed with the idea to advertise on the two blank sides of the napkin dispensers at local restaurants.) Having worked with dozens of new bookstore owners, I occasionally cringed at certain mistakes they were making such as allowing customers to use just trade values to buy books - the better policy is to cap how much trade you can use towards a purchase such as at 50% so customers have to give you some cash, as the power company and water company won't accept books for their bills, so you do very much need cash coming in. Also they admit that at first they were accepting any books people brought in but they definitely don't do that anymore. Most readers won't be attuned to these details like a former bookstore rep is, and will breeze right past them. Plus, no shop owner has made no mistakes along the way. And some of them have turned into being happy accidents. I liked how they originally intended to impose a no cell phone policy but before they got around to posting a sign, they noticed that the vast majority of cell phone talkers in the store were talking about the store itself. They were telling the person on the other line about the new bookstore in town and often then taking an order of books for their friend. Personally it's rare that I'm on the phone in a store but it happens and I appreciate store owners who aren't martinets about these kinds of social faux pas. Along the way Wendy and Jack make good friends, become a part of the community, and discover the many joys of running a bookstore (which have pretty much nothing to do with profits - they make enough to get by on and that's enough.) I especially loved the story of the gregarious old man who came in and bought Westerns frequently. After he died his daughter came to donate a handful of books. When Wendy inquired after the Westerns, she found out that not only had he bought them all to donate to the VFW, but he also was illiterate. Aw, so sweet! The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is a quick, breezy read that anyone who loves a good bookstore will love.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This was a really frustrating read. The author seemed to be going for "look how spontaneous and charmingly naive we were about owning a bookstore," when what kept crossing my mind was willfully obtuse, incredibly stupid, purposefully ignorant, etc. Spontaneity is great, but so is having done even the most cursory google search on your dream, especially when you're actually making steps towards that dream. The author and her husband bought a house/bookstore when they had another house they couldn This was a really frustrating read. The author seemed to be going for "look how spontaneous and charmingly naive we were about owning a bookstore," when what kept crossing my mind was willfully obtuse, incredibly stupid, purposefully ignorant, etc. Spontaneity is great, but so is having done even the most cursory google search on your dream, especially when you're actually making steps towards that dream. The author and her husband bought a house/bookstore when they had another house they couldn't sell. They decided to open their store within 3 months when they had no inventory and no money to acquire inventory. They decide they'll take book trades, when they have absolutely no clue on appraising books. Their store had been open for a few months before either one even thought to actually do an internet search on marketing a bookstore or how to identify locations for a successful store. It was ridiculous and honestly, anxiety-inducing. The fact that they've stayed open so long seems to be due to sheer dumb luck. Although frankly the description of how they have bookshelves in their downstairs kitchen where you'd have years of smells and grease and whatever else that lives in kitchens that old seeping into the books (especially since the couple was actually using that as a working kitchen for a while with the books in there); but also that they "have" to keep two kitty litter boxes underneath some of their bookshelves, and that they keep humor books for sale in the bathroom, all grosses me out and kind of makes me never ever want to step foot in their store. The writing jumps around between vignettes to lists of best/worst books, to a fact-finding trip to other independent bookstores in neighboring states and isn't really cohesive. She also tends to be somewhat superior about how she and her friends make their own things or buy local/secondhand and how educated and well-traveled she and her husband are; and is fairly judgmental about chain bookstores, Amazon, bestsellers and small town politics. There are much better books about owning bookstores out there (Larry McMurtry's Books for one, which is also about owning a bookstore in a small town where everyone was convinced the store would fail).

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