Best Book Store (Chain)

Barnes & Noble–Chesterfield Oaks

One hot summer morning, a group of ten women and one man gathered in the café at the Barnes & Noble in Chesterfield to discuss The Paris Wife, Paula McLain's novel about Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's St. Louis-born first wife. Gradually the conversation turned to the fate of the other major bookstore chain, Borders, which had announced the day before that it was liquidating all its stock and going out of business. The group wondered: Would there be huge sales? What would become of their coupons and gift cards? And what about the institution of the bookstore? Behind the book clubbers, amid the tables of neatly stacked books, the life of the store went on. Cashiers rang up purchases. Baristas made coffee. Friends huddled together over the tiny café tables. Booksellers answered customers' questions and alphabetized and shelved new stock (including multiple copies of the club's next selection, The Sun Also Rises). It was the chain bookstore at its best: more impersonal than an indie, perhaps, but also right there in Chesterfield instead of a half-hour drive away. More important, it was packed with books and book lovers. It would be sincerely missed if it followed Borders into oblivion.

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