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The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book Hardcover – October 2, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 139 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Once the dream of every bibliophile, owning one’s own bookstore means something different in these days of Amazon.com and e-readers. Keeping an independent bookstore thriving is problematic in even the biggest cities and best of economic times, and it’s especially difficult in a rural community of 5,000 facing a major economic downturn. Yet none of those factors deterred Welch and her husband from impulsively buying a ramshackle Victorian mansion and filling it with thousands of used books. Nor did their lack of book trade knowledge or any type of local support stand in their way. Frugal, resourceful, cunning, and determined, they vowed to win over those who thought they’d never last. Having a pair of saucy cats and plates of Scottish shortbread helped convert any holdouts, but it was their empathetic demeanor and unabashed love of books that earned the Welches continuing success. Amusing, engaging, astute, and perceptive, Welch’s buoyant memoir of an endangered way of life is a fervent affirmation of the power of books to bring people together. --Carol Haggas


“In a time when brick and mortar bookstores around the country are literally imperiled, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap comes along like a cool compress on a nagging wound; with humor, compassion, and a bold leap of spirit, Wendy Welch leads us back to this nearly forgotten truth, that bookstores are not simply distribution hubs for books, they are the warm living rooms of our culture, the portal to our dream worlds, the anchors for our hungry, drifting souls. Buy this book!” ―Andre Dubus III, author of Townie and The House of Sand and Fog

“The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap confirms what I've long suspected, that book lovers are good people and that bookstores are the best places on earth. Add in the elements of pre-loved books, in-love bookstore owners, and to-fall-in-love with local characters, and you have The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, a story to thrill anyone who has ever dreamed of owning a bookstore (and which book lover hasn't?) and a memoir sure to warm the cockles of the hearts of readers everywhere. A treasure of a book about books.” ―Nina Sankovitch, author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading

“Wendy Welch's memoir, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, is a delight. Starting a used bookstore in a small Appalachian town during the decline-of-the-book era may seem like rank folly, but the project--and the book turn out to be anything but foolish. With warmth and humor, Welch details the small successes and large missteps along the path to finding a place in a community. She shows that, even in the age of the e-reader, there is hope for books and those who love them, and that reading and bookstores still perform an important function in civic life. Her clear prose sparkles with personality in this heartening tale of the perils and rewards of following one's dream.” ―Thomas C. Foster, author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor

“Wendy Welch's memoir is entertaining, informative, and - best of all - big-hearted and wise. A perfect pick-me-up for people discouraged by talk of the death of the book.” ―Sam Savage, author of Firmin and Glass

“Charming, lively, bubbling with anecdote, incident and insight, Wendy Welch's animated memoir is any reader's perfect companion. You read this book and feel you've made a friend. By turns comic, and thoughtful, The Little Bookstore at Big Stone Gap brims with joie de livre.” ―Laura Kalpakian, author of American Cookery and The Memoir Club

“Amusing, engaging, astute, and perceptive, Welch's buoyant memoir of an endangered way of life is a fervent affirmation of the power of books to bring people together.” ―Booklist

“The whole narrative exudes enormous charm and the value of dreams and lives truly lived.” ―Publishers Weekly

“An entertaining book with a full cast of eccentric characters.” ―Kirkus

“Candid and endearing tale . . . Wendy brings a sense of humor and compassion to her story, sharing the trials and tribulations on opening and running a new bookstore. It is a joy to see the transitions that Wendy and Jack experience, and how a bookstore can be a magnet for heartbreaking stories and a hub of community spirit. This books is such a warm and engaging journey, best enjoyed with a cup of tea or three.” ―Beyond the Margins

“A heartwarming, cheerleading affirmation of indie bookstores everywhere. Don't fly those flags at half-staff yet.” ―Cleveland Plain Dealer


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250010632
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250010636
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,071,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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, 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.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're a bibliophile you most likely thought about it yourself. Your very own bookstore. In The Little Bookstore Of Big Stone Gap Wendy Welch and her husband make that dream come true. In a spur of the moment decision they buy an old Edwardian home to open their own used bookstore. Of course it's a long way from a dream to a working business, especially if you have no business plan.
This is a quaint and wholesome story about a small town bookstore and its people. Putting their hearts, as much as part of their personal library onto those empty shelves, this venture proved to be a real page turner for me. Yet I'll be the first to admit that you should love books, otherwise this book might not captivate you as much as it pulled me in.
Both warmhearted and fun Wendy sure managed to put a smile on my face from the first page on. Not only can you feel the love for books between the lines, she is also a wonderful writer, not just bringing her experiences and observations to paper, but making them come alive in the reader's mind. I could literally see myself browsing those shelves, catching glimpses of the cats (and dogs) of the house, and mingling with the regulars. I'm in love with this place already!
Too bad the book doesn't include pictures of the shop which would have really rounded off the picture.
In short: A bookishly charming memoir!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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Format: Hardcover
I finished the book a couple of weeks ago. It was charming. The author makes you feel like you're visiting a small town full of great characters with every turn of the page. It's a relaxing escape. There's a quiet yet smoldering drama underlying the everyday comings and goings of customers and somewhat esoterically titled books. It's the David and Goliath battle. This time played out as a little bookstore versus giants like WalMart and maybe even Amazon a little. Darn you Kindle. Or do I love you? But really it's the story of living your dream -- with a little reassurance that even if it's a quiet dream, rest assured, life still delivers plenty of drama.

Today I read in the author's blog -- [...] -- that someone on Amazon had written an unkind review. Yes, now I'm hooked on the blog. Yes, I've googled directions to get to the store and buy a book about sandwiches, or cat husbandry. And no, I didn't read the negative review. There's enough negative in the world. If you see a negative review on here. Take it with a grain of salt. If you want to read something that will leave you feeling wonderful. Buy the book. If you don't like it, drive to the store and sell it back to her. I'm sure you'll get $1.50 at least. And a cup of tea if you want. :)
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Format: Hardcover
What a beautiful story! The title suggests something simple, and you can read it that way, with plenty of business and writing tips, but there is so much more -- so much worldly wisdom and soul, and so many fine turns of a phrase. The story of Wendy Welch and her Scots husband Jack Beck leaving behind an urban world of reading for work to open a bookstore in the coalfields of southwestern Virginia is a tale of grit, compassion, and wit; two people "living as gracefully as fish astride mopeds." Read it through `til the end, and read it for the joy of reading; you will be a better person for it. Genuinely funny moments abound, but also poignancy. The chapter on "The Last Cowboy" is worth the price of the book, but the keenly observant yet entertainingly brief stories of persistence, acceptance, and the benefits of giving back to the community and humanity are profound. As Welch writes, the "most important stories found in a bookshop aren't in the books; they're in the customers." Even when having conversations "with no meaning but lots of volume." And, of these customers, "Mountains may have formed their backbones, but dreams light their eyes." As one with southwestern Virginia roots, that rings so true. Sometimes Welch has a way of "revealing meaning by obscuring it," but the anecdotes of her purple fuzzy slippers or the remnants of a night of friskiness are priceless. Don't miss this one. It makes me want to visit the "Tales of the Lonesome Pine" bookstore.
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