Tuesday 4 February 2014

The little bookstore of Big Stone Gap

Usually, I visit a bookshop, buy a book and write a blog, but this week's post takes a break from tradition.

Because this week's entry is about a bookshop - or in this case bookstore - I wish to visit: Tales of the Lonesome Pine in Virginia, USA, and what I like to think of as its biography, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.

But why did I choose this particular American secondhand bookstore? It's hardly the most famous store of its kind across the Atlantic. The story begins several months ago when I was first contemplating all the different bookshops I'd like to meet.

I 'met' Wendy Welch in the same way I encountered all the other bookshops that inspired this blog, during a very fun but daft game on Twitter (for a vague explanation see here), as she was one of the names I'd encounter semi-regularly. Initially remembering her for being a fun personality, I soon realised she runs a bookstore, had written a book, and shares her home with a Scottish husband, a dog or two and a gazillion (slight exaggeration) foster cats in search of forever homes. I was naturally fascinated and wanted to know more, so in the absence of a free plane ticket I read the book (as a stop-gap, I'm determined to visit in person one day).

The best way I can explain the book is that if I was planning on setting up a bookshop of my own I'd consider The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap to be my ultimate how to guide.

Telling the story of how Wendy and husband Jack turned their dream of owning a bookstore into reality, chapters take readers through the highs and lows (mostly highs) of their adventures in bookshopping land. From bold, free marketing campaigns, to all manner of community events, even revealing the secrets of how the couple first filled their shelves, the book was a real eye-opener to the work, dedication, love and enthusiasm that goes into setting up a successful independent bookshop.

Throw in a variety of wonderful anecdotes of (sometimes crazy) customers, the furry members of staff and a foray into some recommended reads, and it was impossible not to get carried away in the story. There were many moments where I'd forget myself and laugh out loud in inappropriate settings, and the book had more than its fair share of corners turned down as I picked out thoughts and anecdotes to be shared with others or simply return to when the mood takes me.

But most of all the book was an introduction to a bookstore that's very much a part of its community, both as a place to discover different worlds within the pages of the books, and also as a place to unite with new friends among the shelves of the store. I may not have visited yet, but I consider this post a statement of intent, because as soon as my piggy bank will allow I do intend to hop on a plane to visit and experience the people and cats and shelves for myself.

In the meantime, whether in the United States or United Kingdom, we're all united in our love of a good bookshop, and Tales of the Lonesome Pine is definitely one of those.

Tales of the Lonesome Pine LLC
404 Clinton Ave E, Big Stone Gap, Virginia 24219, USA
Tel: +1 276 523 5097

Wendy also has a blog, which you can read here.


  1. I'm currently curled up with this one (well, not right now, obviously as I'm typing!) and thoroughly enjoying - thanks for the review, it encouraged me to push it up unread pile, and is a perfect comfort book for a wet and cold winter.

    1. Hi Susanne, I'm glad you like it. I don't consider myself much of a book reviewer, so it's good to know my thoughts have encouraged you to read it sooner.

    2. Having finished it, I'd say don't put yourself down as a reviewer! I think you captured it beautifully.


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