This is not what bookstores are supposed to be like. This is wrong.
The bookstores on Guam are limited to one chain, aptly titled “Bestseller Books.” What it does well:
- It carries all the newest bestsellers (albeit about three months after they’re released in the States)
- It boasts a ridiculously wide variety of magazines
- It has a relatively impressive collection of the latest young adult dystopian novels, vampire books, and Hunger Games lookalikes
What it does poorly:
- Encourages people to, ahem, actually read
When you walk through the door, one of the first things you’ll notice are the paper signs Scotch-taped to the end of almost every shelf: “No Free Reading.” And, in case those signs didn’t dissuade you from hiding behind a shelf to skim through a book: “No sitting on floor.”
Not that there are chairs. Or empty spaces to lean. Or any other semblance of a way to get comfortable while you’re browsing a Bestseller Books. Because there’s not. It’s like the McDonald’s of bookstores: You go in, buy whatever the latest release is that you’re planning to read because everybody else is reading it, and you get out as fast as they can politely shove you out the door. Preferably without having even peeked into the spine of a book to see if it looks interesting.
When you check out, you’ll be warned that the store doesn’t accept returns, and exchanges must be processed within three days of the book’s purchase. If you ask about a damaged book, they’ll tell you they can’t offer a discount, even though the publisher couldn’t manage to cut the pages straight, or the customer who (illegally) flipped through the book before you broke the spine in half. And if you (heaven forbid) sit on the floor, you’ll be kindly asked to clear the way for other customers.
The classic literature section consists of one narrow set of shelves with mass market paperback versions of, I’m guessing, this year’s required high school reading. There are more magazines than non-fiction books of any kind. You’ll find greeting cards and the latest issues of Cosmopolitan or Sports Illustrated (or even Architectural Digest!), but you’d be hard pressed to find, say, Dickens. You’ll find The Dummies’ Guide to Korean, but no unabridged dictionaries.
I’m not saying every bookstore has to be like Barnes & Noble. But every bookstore worth the shingle it hangs out front should encourage actual reading. Occasionally. Maybe. Just a thought.
I think for the remainder of my time on Guam, I’m going to stick to Oyster and whatever I can find online. This is one case in which Amazon might be a better choice than buying locally, because I’m not sure I want to support whoever thought Bestseller Books was a good idea.