180 N 8th St
Boise, ID 83702
“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away”
-Emily Dickinson, #1263
In downtown Boise, along North 8th St, where there are a variety of beguiling bars and eateries, is an unassuming store called Rediscovered Books. Beneath the sign of a frigate whose hull is an open book, its artfully displayed windows foretell the care and curatorship that waits inside.
When entering the 8th St door (there’s another door along the W Idaho St side) one immediately encounters a set of display shelves with the book club selections of thirty or so local groups. By dedicating prime merchandising space to local tastes and priorities the store seems to declare its role within and commitment to its community. It also gives a visitor a unique insight into the character of local literary life. The store’s local orientation is reaffirmed by the prominent presence of a variety of local authors on its shelves.
Rediscovered Books engages its community by organizing author signing tables during the spring and summer for the Boise Saturday Farmer’s Market, which runs along 8th St. They also offer a subscription ‘Guaranteed Read’ program in both adult titles and picture books in which a new book is chosen each month by the staff and shipped to subscribers (subscriber satisfaction is, obviously, guaranteed). I thought the adult subscription was slightly expensive, but the picture book version is advantageously priced at six months for $100. They partner with a local donut shop to run a kids’ story time called ‘Tasty Tales’ in which both the donuts and the books read are discounted, thereby promoting local indie life. The store also holds ticketed ‘Books & Booze’ nights which are rumored to be as excellent as they sound.
The store is accommodating and cleanly organized with no overcrowding whatsoever, and it has a modern and whimsical kind of aesthetic. All the non-book items in the store seemed to relate to book culture (I took home a tin of archival ‘Book Darts’), and there are even a few, but not too many, comfortable chairs for reading. The staff was friendly and very intuitive about the level of service required by each customer (though I sometimes suspect that I’m prone to making conversation-discouraging faces unless I’m vigilant about it…). The working environment seemed healthy, and the store even features a page on their website for past booksellers to post current book recommendations.
Though the store buys and sells gently used books, I found very few of these on the shelves. The sampling of books I browsed were often priced below list, and during my visit I enjoyed an adult fiction sale. Despite its size, the store’s offerings range widely by subject, and this means that each section was relatively small. Because the sections were so small and the number of titles each section could accommodate so limited, the character and diversity of the selection was particularly eloquent. While I think the store might benefit from a greater sensitivity to this phenomenon and make a more conscious effort at inclusion, overall I found the stock to be various and of high quality (particularly in the graphic novel section).
The Children’s and teen sections are generously sized, and the well-considered titles featured there gave me a sense that the store sought to cater to the needs of children and teens directly. This tells me that the store values the choice of the reader and therefore values the reader. I was also happy to find a minimum of toys in this part of the store, particularly in the picture book section. I get very annoyed when I’m in a bookstore with my kids and they’re distracted at every turn by toys that have little or nothing to do with reading.
I visited the store on a rainy weekday evening and so had little difficulty finding metered parking. There were also several parking garages in the area. In the middle of my visit, a fire alarm sent everyone on the block out of the building, and my only regret was losing my courage to ask the booksellers sheltering under the awning with me for a cafe recommendation while I waited for the shop to reopen. Indeed, all I managed to stammer out as I paid for my books was, ‘You have a lovely shop’ (apparently I turn into an introverted version of Ms. Marple when I’m nervous).
I’m not sure if the store’s logo really has anything to do with Emily Dickinson, but it is the poem that came to mind as I browsed. If you happen to get in for a visit, maybe you can ask for me…?