The Bookstores of Sanibel Island



Today I spent the day bike riding around Sanibel Island, some thirty minutes off Florida’s west coast. It’s a touristy happy place, with colorful restaurants, miles of beaches and an infinity of seashell souvenirs.

But, what impressed me the most about this quiet coastal village is the number of independent bookstores it has. Three. Three solid bookstores. 

Last summer, I spent four days wondering through the streets of Hong Kong on the lookout for cool bookstores and could find none. When I finally used Google to locate one, it was in the desolate corner of an otherwise busy mall and was part of a multinational chain. 

Above is Gene’s Books, specializing in mystery. I decided to support the efforts of these local book lovers and purchased two. One is a classic French mystery by prolific writer Charles Simenon and the other is part of a new series of Turkish mysteries by Mehmet Murat Somer, whose main character is a drag queen detective.


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Then, there was the Sanibel Bookshop, with a respectable collection of hardcover children and adult classics. I went with “Othello”, as I’ve never read this seriously forward-thinking Shakespearean play.


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Finally, MacIntosh Books & Paper, where a sizable young adult section caught my eye. The very helpful sales clerk suggested I take a copy of best-seller Sarah Dessen’s “That Summer.”  She said it was a good show of “what the genre is doing these days.”



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In all, I spent less than thirty dollars on four great books. Perhaps this is the Sanibel secret: cheap books makes for more readers. Because the quality of the bookshops in Sanibel is as equally unbelievable as the quantity of their patrons. All three bookstores were full of good books and people who were actually buying them.

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