Back to the Bookstore

Back to the Bookstore

John's trip to the bookstore 2-small

At least the magazine section still isn’t crowded

I took a trip to the Barnes & Noble in Geneva, Illinois today, for the first time since mid-March.

I wasn’t even sure it was open. I just took a chance after my Saturday trip to the post office — to put a dozen Black Gate back issues in the mail for a curious buyer — and swung by. There was a big paper sign proclaiming WE ARE OPEN in the window. The guy wearing a mask behind the counter told me they’d been open for two weeks. Who knew?

There were signs advising that entry was not permitted without a face mask, and lots of reminders to maintain social distancing. But still. It feels really good — if a little weird — to be back in a bookstore again, browsing the latest releases, as if there weren’t a pandemic going on.

OK, there weren’t a lot of new releases. To be truthful, most of the stock looked pretty similar to the last time I was there three months ago. Even the magazines were the same; every one I picked up was cover-dated March or April. It’s almost like the store was shuttered overnight, like in I Am Legend or 28 Days Later, and the staff just cautiously dusted stuff stuff off and opened up again.

But it doesn’t matter. It was a pleasure just to wander the aisles, pick up books, and do a little impulse buying.

[Click the images for pandemic-sized versions.]

John's trip to the bookstore 4-small

The March/April issues of all your favorite magazines are still on sale, in case you missed ’em

Maybe it’s just because I haven’t been in a bookstore in months, but soooo many titles looked interesting. I usually check out the magazines and then make a beeline for the Science Fiction/Fantasy section in the back, but this time I dawdled in front of the New Fiction tables just to see what was new in mystery and general fiction.

Not a lot that was truly new, sure, but that didn’t really matter either. It was fun just to be able to browse again.

John's trip to the bookstore 3-small

The new fiction section. Sigh. Isn’t it gorgeous?

The Science Fiction/Fantasy section, when I finally made it, was a sight for sore eyes. It’s three fulls aisles in the back of the store, and I took my time ambling up and down them, plucking books off the shelves just to check them out. (And smell them, of course. When no one was looking. Come on — like you haven’t done the same thing.)

John's trip to the bookstore 5-small

The glorious Science Fiction/Fantasy section. I’ve missed you, baby.

There wasn’t a lot that was new, but whatever. I was more than content.

That copy of Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth? You look beautiful, you sweet thing. The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling? I already have a copy, but maybe I’ll buy another one. Just because I can, and because you look so great there on display. Ooooo, there’s a trade paperback of Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I’ve heard great things.

John's trip to the bookstore 1-small

Why can’t my house look like this. Wait — it does.

There were a few new books that demanded my attention. Like Malamander by Thomas Taylor, which I found in a center-aisle display in the Young Adult section, and A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, sitting right next to it on the BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% off table. Man was not built to resist that kind of temptation.

John's trip to the bookstore 9-small

The books I walked out with. I think I showed a lot of self control, all things considered.

All told I spent nearly 40 minutes browsing before I checked out. I’ll check back in a week or two to see if the new SF magazines have arrived yet, and what happens with new releases. It would be nice to be able to buy new books again, but I’m in no rush. I was fully content with the five items I brought to the checkout lane.

Not able to get to a bookstore? Miss gazing longingly at book displays? I get you. Here’s a few photos to help tide you over until your local bookstore opens up too. Click the images for bigger versions.

Until then, happy book buying everyone.

John's trip to the bookstore 6-small


John's trip to the bookstore 7-small

John's trip to the bookstore 8-small

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Thomas Parker

I’ll be heading over to my nearest Barnes and Noble in a few weeks, when they have their twice-yearly 50% off Criterion sale.

I might take a look at some of these “books” while I’m there. People have been telling me they’re cool too, and are something I might want to look into…

Jeff Stehman

I stopped in B&N yesterday, as at this point it’s obvious my Foreign Affairs subscription has silently expired. Alas, they no longer carry it.


You don’t mention this, however, I’ve been to two B&Ns in the last week, and found that they have split out the SF books from the fantasy titles (if you look at your pics, you see just the fantasy books and not a single SF).

This is something I’ve seen on my travels both overseas (at Waterstone stores) as well as in Canada (at Indigo). I’ve never understood the reasoning behind this, as there are authors who write both who get split into the two areas, and I believe that keeping them both together alphabetically in one category helps the sale of books overall.

I think this new move on B&N’s part may come from the fact that they are now owned by the man who owns Waterstone’s in the UK, where I first saw this.

It would be interesting to hear from others about the idea of splitting SFF into two categories in stores.

Chuck Timpko

At least you had the old issues of Analog, Asimov’s and MFSF. My local B&N had neither the older issues nor the new July/August issues. Hoping it’s just a timing issue as there are not many stores left which carry them.

Did not notice if the Fantasy and SF were divided. Guess it calls for another visit and investment of funds !


Chuck and Jeff,

The following link tells the story about magazines at B&N:

A later update stated: “Update: Alex Ortolani, Director, Corporate Communications at Barnes and Noble told Good e-Reader
“We have temporarily paused magazine orders due to store closures related to COVID-19. When we reopen stores we will once again sell magazines.””

There is a music magazine I pick up off the stands (Uncut) where one of the B&N stores I went to had the April issue still out, and the other store had the May issue available–I thought I had missed both.

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