Bookshop Superheroes: Third Place Books
April 19, 2021
Bookstore workers and owners have been absolute essential workers during this pandemic—heroes on the frontlines of our mental health. After those first months when reading felt really hard, when the doom-scrolling kept us in our lizard brains, books were there waiting for us in all their analog selves. Books, as one 2020 Summer Book Bingo player said, are the only safe way to travel right now.
In appreciation of our local indies who have reinvented their processes and protocols over and over again in the service of getting the just-right book to the just-right hands, our Bookshop Superheroes blog series features interviews with our partner bookstores and special Instagram takeovers to get a glimpse into a day in their store. (Not following us yet on Instagram? Check us out!)
Next up is Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, which is taking over our Instagram tomorrow, April 20! Ever wonder where the name came from?
The name originates from a theory proposed by sociologist Ray Oldenberg that says every person needs three places: first is home; second is a workplace or school; and third is a community—a “third place” where people from all walks of life can come together and both experience and celebrate their commonality as well as their diversity. Erin Ball, manager of Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, reflects on the past year and shares what books excite her this year.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
How hasn’t it affected us? We’ve had to pivot multiple times throughout this past year. Like all other bookstores, our online traffic increased exponentially, which has been great, but also required a lot of work on our part. We had to create the infrastructure from scratch for processing orders from our homes—then again, when we started offering curbside pickups.
We worked hard to create health and safety protocols our employees felt comfortable with when we were able to invite customers back in—we turned our events program entirely digital.
At times it felt like we were inventing a new business every few months. Throughout, we’ve been very fortunate with the incredible support of our community. But it was hard for those first few months, trying to be booksellers without seeing customers face to face. Only just now we’re starting to see some regulars who haven’t been here in over a year. It’s bittersweet. We’re so happy to see them again but sad to have lost all that time.
What have been some of the blessings or silver linings of this time?
We’ve always wanted a more robust e-commerce department. And now we’ve got it. It’s also brought our staff together in ways I didn’t expect. It’s hard to go through all of this without relying on each other more. I’m really proud of them. After this last year, it feels like there’s very little we can’t overcome. Also, our puzzle sales are through the roof! Man, do people like puzzles.
What books are you excited for in the coming year?
Moon and the Mars (Seven Stories Press, 8/31/21) by Kia Corthron. She wrote an incredible novel a few years ago, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter, that I wish was more well-known. I’m hoping this new one really vaults her into the spotlight. She’s phenomenal. I’m also really looking forward to Maggie Nelson’s latest, On Freedom (Graywolf, 9/7/21), and I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness (Riverhead, 10/5/21) by Claire Vaye Watkins—and also, Notes on Grief (Knopf, 5/11/21) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Thank you, Erin!