This month’s Bookshop of the Month is Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut. Founded in 1988, the bookshop has been under current management since 2006. The shop now occupies two storefronts on Mystic’s Main Street and features a whale painted by Pamela Zagarenski outside its front door. We had the chance to catch up with store manager Doug Riggs for this feature.
What do you think is special about Bank Square Books?
I’m going to be super saccharine (but truthful!) and say our customers. We’re fortunate to be located in a tourist town so aside from our hyper-literate locals, we need to cater to the tastes and reading preferences of a diverse audience. That is both a challenge and a blessing. I’m always excited to place backlist orders because as I pour over inventory changes I invariably mutter to myself, “Oh, wow, that sold? Amazing!” Some of our strongest sections at the time of this writing are YA fiction, Science writing, Romance and, of course, Boats and Boating.
If money was no object, what changes would you make to your bookshop?
I always thought it would be fun to buy a huge, sprawling, derelict mansion and then fix it up into a bookstore. There wouldn’t be any appliances or furniture (beyond bookcases and tables). The cookbooks would all be in the kitchen. Mysteries in the butler’s pantry. Gardening and nature writing in the conservatory. Humor and philosophy for the bathrooms. I now realize this totally hasn’t answered your question but I figure it would cost a lot of money, so at least there’s that.
How / why did you get into bookselling?
Architecture (the profession) had about as much use for me as I did for it. Unfortunately it took me five years of study to figure this out. Loads of literature and theory classes taken to keep myself sane during this time scratched a nascent itch. Then 57th Street Books on Chicago’s south side came along and this is what I am now.
What’s the funniest thing you ever heard anyone say in the shop?
Invariably something along the lines of “Oh, it’s just… books,” spoken by some loved one who has been dragged inside against their wishes. I guess that’s less funny-haha and more funny-ugh.
What’s your favourite And Other Stories book?
Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (translated by Julia Sanches), 1,000%. What a delightful book and one of my favourites of the past year. They say Stephen King fans would read his grocery list if that somehow got published. I would happily buy any author’s grocery list if it was translated by Julia Sanches.
What book published in the last year do our readers need to get their hands on?
The True Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It by Ana Cristina Herreros (translated by Chloe Garcia Roberts). Enchanted Lion Books has long been one of my favorite children’s book publishers and Unruly, an imprint of theirs that launched this past year, aims their picture books at teens and adults. True Story of a Mouse is a perfect debut for them. It’s gorgeous and dark and completely absorbing. Like virtually everything I read these days, it’s also a translation (of a popular Spanish folktale).
What would be your desert island book?
Stephen Colbert asks his guests some variation on, “If you had to listen to one song over and over for the rest of your life, what would it be?” I feel like this is the literary version of that. Because if you’re left with just one thing forever, you’re going to hate that thing eventually, no matter how wonderful it is. So what happens if you start with something that already drives you kind of mad? I’m going to go with Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, by Marguerite Young. Most books I need a few years between readings for it to be fresh. With MacIntosh, I swear you could read the previous paragraph over and it would be sparkling and new.