Sunday, January 3, 2010

What I Want For Christmas Next Year... an open letter to bookstores

Aside from the fake fireplace that dear hubby got me for x-mas (it looks real! flickering 'flames'! glowing logs! a heater you can turn on and off! ...sigh, I'm sitting by it right now... so very cozy), the other best present he gave me was a gift certificate to Powell's.
Now, for those of you who don't live here, or who don't know Powell's, you might want to consider a trip to Portland just to go. Seriously. Best.Bookstore.Ever. It takes up a whole city block, several stories high in parts, a wonderful labyrinth of every book you could ever want. New and used side by side on the same shelf, out-of-print and rare books galore... every time I think I'm just going to run in and grab something, it takes me an hour because I'm drawn off into some twist or turn of the bookstore, wondering if they have, say, an in-depth book on the lives of Japanese servants in feudal times (they do!), or a picture book of shopkeepers signs in Edo era Japan (how did I have any doubt?)

That being said, I do have one minor bone to pick with bookstores, including the great and wonderful Powell's:

Why do they continue to confuse age range with genre?

I certainly understand that YA and MG books have exploded in the past 10 years, and I noticed that Powell's recently rearranged and expanded the room dedicated to them, but that has only made it all the more confusing to find anything at all.
In 'adult' (I mean grown-up, not porno) book sections, they have real genres, like fantasy, romance, historical non-fiction, etc etc. Not so in the YA and MG spots. I routinely have to scan through every genre of book, hoping the fantasy ones will catch my eye. So much more difficult than it needs to be, and I fear that it's only going to get worse!
What would truly make my day is to hear that bookstores have finally read the definition of a genre, and realized that an age range does not a genre make.
I will seriously have a party on the day I hear that bookstores are going to start shelving YA and MG into real sections of their own! Oh the glorious relief of not having to scan past 20 books about mean popular girls at school or serious non-fiction books about life under the nazis, just to find the fantasy novels that I love! (and I'm quite sure that people looking for those non-fiction, 'life under the nazis' books would dearly love to quit sorting through vampire books to find what they're looking for as well)

So bookstores, listen up! For my x-mas present next year, I want bookshelves catagorized into real genres!
Pretty please?


Valerie Geary said...

MMmmmmmm.... Powells.... I need to make another trip. I've been away far too long! We used to go almost every Sunday because parking downtown was free. But they've done away with that... the jerks. :) And you make an excellent point about the MG/YA genre... it definitely needs to be split up better! Start the revolution! :)

ann foxlee said...

Viva la revolution! And while we're at it, free parking all week long for anyone going to Powell's! :-)

Lisa and Laura said...

1. I really, really want to come visit Powells.

2. I HATE trying to navigate YA sections for this very reason! It's so tricky! Joseph Beth here in Cleveland divides YA books into Fantasy, Series and Other and that really helps.

3. Happy New Year!

ann foxlee said...

You should totally try to do a book signing there at some point!

Southpaw said...

I totally agree with you! I can't believe they still resist the changeover.

Kasie West said...

Okay, your blog just ate my comment. That or I'm about to post comment number two. In case of the latter scenario, I will make this one slightly different so as to confuse people into wondering if they just read this or not. Main points: So true. That must happen (the separating YA into genres). Make it so. And I love Powells (or the equivalent store that I visited while on vacation in Arizona that I don't remember the name of).