Intrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road this past summer for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…
NAPERVILLE, Illinois — Don’t be in too much of a rush when you’re on your way into Chicago. Sure, it’s one of the nation’s greatest cities and a whole lot of fun, but there is a suburb just a short drive away that holds a not-so-hidden treasure. Anderson’s has been in Naperville, Illinois, since its founding as a family drugstore that also sold books. Things have changed since 1875, and Anderson’s is now a bookshop with an unmatched reputation. I always have a good time when I’m in a bookstore, but owner Becky Anderson made sure my fun wasn’t just centered around books in Naperville. Oh sure, all the books you could want are there. And yes, the staff knows all about them and is more than willing to make suggestions and help you track down what you’re looking for. But Becky Anderson and her bookshop don’t want you to leave just clutching a book; they want you to leave with a book in your hand and broad smile on your face.
Every independent bookstore has something unique to offer, but Anderson’s probably holds the best overall experience. I mean just look (photo left) at the raucous good time that Lucky had with Becky and her horrifying friend Dr. Piggles! That kind of entertainment isn’t something you find at your average bookstore. Meanwhile, just off camera, Anderson’s was hosting a panel of Young Adult authors, filling the seats on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t think it’s actually possible to walk through Anderson’s Bookshop and come out the other side in a bad mood, but if you somehow do, salvation sits just Two Doors East. Anderson’s has taken over the store just a few stops down the strip, filling it with everything from Oh God I Am So Totally Wasted Mints to flamingos in Pilgrim garb and singing Sonic Wallets. Basically, it has everything you need.
Owner Becky Anderson answered the Algonquin Questionnaire without the help of Dr. Piggles.
Well, Anderson’s Drug Store opened in 1875. It obviously wasn’t a bookstore, but it did sell books. Then in 1964 my family opened Paradise Bookstore right above the Drug Store. (There used to be a joke that books were always better on drugs.) Eventually, we left the drug store behind and changed the name to Anderson’s Bookshop, although we still have the sign from our original bookstore.
What is the funniest book on your shelves?
Oh, there are so many! All My Friends Are Dead is amazing. I really like a couple quirky zombie books — The Very Hungry Zombie and Zombies Hate Stuff. Then probably my all-time favorite (even though we’re currently out of stock) is this book of postcards with cute animals delivering traumatic news. It’s called Grandma’s Dead: Breaking Bad News with Baby Animals.
What is the funniest non-book item you sell?
I imagine the staff who work on the counter next to them might disagree, but I think our singing Sonic Wallets are hysterical.
What is your favorite Algonquin title and your favorite book from the summer?
I think everybody loved The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro, and then Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist was really fun. For non-Algonquin books I’ll say Nos4A2 from Joe Hill and The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow from Rita Leganski.
Is there a staff cocktail of choice?
I think Fish House Punch would probably qualify. It’s Grand Marnier, peach schnapps, and lemon juice with tons of Rum.
What is the most visited section of the store?
For children, it has to be our toy section in the back. Not only are they surrounded by a bunch of toys that they want, but there’s also a train table to keep them occupied. The adults usually venture towards our Staff Picks and then get caught up looking at our line of T-shirts that are hanging in the window.
What is the strangest question you’ve ever been asked at Anderson’s Bookshop?
One time I had someone ask me when we were having Laura Ingalls Wilder in for a signing. [At this point David's mind had processed Laura Ingalls Wilder as Young Adult author Laurie Halse Anderson and he was sitting there, wide-eyed, waiting for the punch line.] …but, she’s been dead for almost 60 years. [Complete. Embarrassment.]
Next stop: The Book Table in Chicago, Illinois.
*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…