In mid-September, Lookout Books and author Matthew Neill Null went to the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) conference, held in Raleigh, NC. There, we had the privilege of meeting and talking to many booksellers from across the South. At the conference, one of our staffers sat down and chatted with Kimberly Daniels Taws, owner of the Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC. Earlier in the week, Matthew Neill Null had led a workshop on writing historical fiction at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities as part of his North Carolina tour, and the Country Bookshop sponsored a book signing after the event. We had such a good time meeting Kimberly, hearing about her store, and then taking a trip to see it, so we were grateful to sit down with her again at SIBA to get all of the official details about books, Southern Pines, and quarkbeasts.
The Country Bookshop was founded in 1953, and when Kimberly bought the store in 2010, she resurrected the original logo, which she found in newspaper ads. She also shared with us how successful Honey from the Lion has been at the Country Bookshop, hopping right into the top spot for paperback fiction sales after our visit.
Name a book you bought for its cover.
Dry by Augusten Burroughs. It’s dry, but it’s dripping wet. It’s fabulous, just so well done.
What are some of the qualities that make the Country Bookshop unique?
Probably the town. Southern Pines is a hidden gem of a town. A lot of places try to recreate what our town is organically. It has guitar shop and a cheese shop, a wine shop, a bike shop, a knitting shop, an art gallery, two coffee shops, a great independent theatre, an ice cream shop, tons of women’s dress shops, and a toy shop. There are great restaurants, all within the two blocks of our cute downtown. It’s walkable. And the North Carolina Literary Hall of fame is there in Weymouth.
If you could adopt any fictional animal, which one would you choose and why?
Like a snuffalufagus? I read this book, The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde. I needed something different. This girl, she was an orphan and became an indentured slave to this house of wizardry. And she has a quarkbeast. So, a quarkbeast.
What book are you recommending most to customers right now?
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.
It changes the way you look at things. Like how you and I could be sitting here but we would have totally different experiences. It hammers down on that kind of different experience and it is mind-blowing.
What songs are on your store’s playlist?
Funny enough I do not regulate the music. It’s based on mood and whoever gets there first. The Pandora stations we are listening to are Jimmy Buffett and Macy Gray. I usually put on Tedeschi Trucks. And jazz. We like to keep it varied.
What do you see as the Country Bookshop’s role in the community?
We are one of the oldest consistent storefronts. So the continuity and the stability as the town has evolved is something greater than the shop. Our goal is really to make our town a literary destination. There are stories: F. Scott Fitzgerald used to come here on the train, and townspeople would have to help him stumble his way up to Weymouth from the station. As locals, we all know those stories, but if somebody is coming through the town, they are not going to know it and they would never see your town as the place where these stories happen. So to make that accessible, I think is one goal and then to advertise our town as this destination is our job.
Coffee or tea? coffee
Hard cover or paperback? hardcover. And let me preface that with an autographed first-edition hardcover.
Vowel or consonant? vowel
Highlight or underline? underline
Bookmark or dog-ear? dog-ear. I’ve worked for a long time with older people and their books, and one of my favorite things is how books have been used.
Train or plane? plane
Cake or pie? pie
Mountains or sea? sea
Dog or cat? dog