Best Of 2000

Best Bookstore: Left Bank Books

Let's do this one by negative example. Not long ago, we were in one of the large chain stores in the area, looking for a book to read on vacation. The choice -- Stefan Kanfer's Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx. We approached the information desk and asked whether there was a biography section in the store. The clerk said there wasn't, but what were we looking for? "That new biography of Groucho Marx," we said. Long pause. "So, is he a historical figure?" the clerk stammered. Before we could snap out of our state of shock and reply that, no, he was a hysterical figure, the thought occurred: "Should have gone to Left Bank." It's a mistake we won't make twice. Besides having a fine, knowledgeable staff (which, we're betting, knows Duck Soup from Chicken Soup for the Soul), Left Bank Books is the last of the great independent local bookstores, which means shopping there is as much a statement as it is a pleasurable experience. The fact that they've survived in the era of superstores and dotcoms says that Left Bank offers something special -- something tangible in terms of having the book you want at a price you can afford, sure, but also something less tangible and less common these days -- they know their customers, and their customers know them. Isn't that how it's supposed to be?

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