As I wandered through The Book Store, an Appleton shop on Northland Avenue, I was reminded of a labyrinth. The bookshelves throughout the store weren’t set up in straight rows, but in perpendicular rows that created dead ends and nooks and crannies, each themed with one genre or another. Whether or not this was intentional, it fits nicely that bookstore owner Laura Brinkman’s favorite genre is mystery.
“It’s what I read, pretty much most of the time,” says Laura. “Even when I was young, I loved Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, and all that—that’s what I just started out reading. It still is my favorite! It always has been. I’ll try other things here and there, but I’ll always enjoy a mystery more than anything.”
This love for reading didn’t come out of nowhere, though. Laura’s mother, who opened The Book Store in the 70s, encouraged reading in all of her children. In fact, Laura’s brother and sister have also owned bookstores.
“I never saw my mom without a book in her hand,” Laura says, and adds, “Through the years, after I was reading on my own, we did have very different reading wants….but it was always just really fun talking about books.”
She has a lot of opportunity to keep that up now, too, since her store’s most popular program allows customers to rent brand-new, hardcover fiction for $4 a week or $6 for two weeks. Even while we were talking, a customer came in to ask for recommendations. (“I need you to pick out a book for me!” “Okay! You like mystery, don’t you? Have you had the new Harlan Coben? That’s a book that everyone’s been going nuts over.”) This way, you can try out a new book without paying full hardcover price or waiting like you might at a library. You can also extend the shorter rental or change to it to a purchase if you’d like! And by providing this offer, she and her staff are very aware of the trends and bestsellers to be had.
“Right now, it’s a lot of after-wartime; World War II is a big trend right now. Paranormal was so big five years ago—hasn’t gone out; it’s still there–but you just see the waves; you just see how it changes. ” And when I asked her what she wanted readers to know, she added, “We are on top of what’s out there.”
In addition to all that I’ve written about the bookstore and its history, though, I was still curious about what drew Laura to books themselves.
“You have the perfect characters—you’ve got it all up here,” she says, motioning towards her head, “and everything’s perfect–just how you picture it yourself. I think that’s number one, is how you’re seeing it. And to me, that’s very important. Just because you are reading words somebody else wrote, it doesn’t mean you’re going to perceive it or see it the same.”
Whether it’s Laura and her mother discussing books across genres to current customers offering and receiving suggestions and reviews, The Book Store has a long history in providing opportunities for these interactions. Come visit for rentals and purchases, or, if you’re looking for a chance to hear a recommendation, talk about some of the newest releases or hear about history behind a local business.
“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”
—by Katie Nelson