Ten Years of Books

by Louise Erdrich

This June will mark the TEN YEAR anniversary of Birchbark Books. I just spent a rainy morning in the bookstore. It feels like a hundred years and no time at all; it feels like the most unlikely place in the world and the most inevitable; it feels like everywhere in the world and it feels like home.

The story of our store is on the website -- how we leased the space and took thirteen layers of floor and dentist office equipment. Check it out!

We started out with books culled from BOOKMAN, our local book distributor. Bookman was absorbed by Ingram and its funky/lovely warehouse turned into Lofts. Ten years ago, I went there with a shopping cart and loaded the cart, hand picking the likely titles from dim piles, riding up and down a freight elevator, checking out at the end with Bookman clerks including one who was and became the terrific writer Kate DiCamillo. We put the books on the shelves and tried to figure out how to sell them. We weren't very good at it. Denny Magers of Magers and Quinn let me buy some books from him. I set out books from my own library -- at the time we had a used/new mixture.

Thank god I kept my day job and the asema that was placed in the walls kept on attracting people who understood that the art of bookselling is unlike any other business. It is a way of life. It is an odd and mundane passion.

Books must contain mysteriously the whole of human experience. -- yet sometimes one can hardly believe that there remains yet a new book to be written.

I just fell in love all over with a big stack of books that have never been written before. (The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison, and More Remarkable Trees, and everything by Ha Jin). Or books I haven't read yet. (Bleak House) Or books that made me laugh until I got sick. (Awkward Family Photos).

I'll write more all summer about bookstore life. I am just absorbing the fact that we are still here. Thank you to our devoted customers and delighted newcomers! Thank you tribal schools and tribal colleges, thank you local schools and teachers. Thank you everyone who has passed through the blue door.

Louise Erdrich