Posted by: Gregg | April 7, 2007

Rare weekend post!

Going to Rainy Day Books in Fairway always puts me in a good mood. If you’ve never been there or live outside of the Kansas City area, you’re missing out; Rainy Day Books is one of the best independent bookstores in the nation. They are the Platonic Ideal of Reader’s Advisory: each member of the staff is a world-class reader who can recommend excellent books in pretty much every genre. Victorian lesbian vampire mystery-noir? Check. Non-fiction regarding the inner lives of former Undersecretaries of Agriculture? Check. Australian surrealistic gothic historical romances? With dragons? Check.

Rainy Day used to be a chain of used bookstores back in the day – my mom and I used to go to the branch in Raytown where I grew up (yes, I was born in Raytown, shut up) as a wee lad would devour fantasy novels and Steven King books by the armload. I bought my first tattered Raymond Chandler novels there, too. A rich part of the Kansas City landscape that makes this town a kick-ass place to live.

Oh, and I must mention my emerging love of the pop-culture website DeadOn, especially the Tied to the 90s series, which was a delight to just rummage through the archives. Go forth!

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Responses

  1. “one of the best independent bookstores in the nation”?!

    I dunno… part of the criteria to be on my “best” list would be that the bookstore would have to be open when I actually want to go there. The latest Rainy Day ever stays open is Thursday, when it is open till 7. Whoo hoo! I’d better rush home from work to get there and have enough time to browse. Not. A piddling 10-5 on Saturdays, and closed on Sundays. Not the best for me, so I never went there.

  2. Granted, Rainy Day has lame hours. Plus, they have an amazingly small store – I think the first floor of my house has more square footage. Also, they don’t offer discounts on bestsellers, which sort of sucks.

    So yeah, they don’t have the advantages of the big-box boys like Barnes & Noble and Borders. They are independents, so they have to do what they can to survive, like shortened hours and a smaller space. However, they compensate by doing things the big boys can’t (or won’t) do, like having an amazingly skilled staff and having incredible live author events.

    It’s kind of like the time in everybody’s life when we discovered that Wal-Mart wasn’t just a big chain store with slightly shady business practices. We found out that they were a force for evil, purposely undercutting local businesses by buying products from Thai workers who could bang out tennis shoes for ten cents a day.

    Same sort of thing, really. I put up with a bit of inconvenience so I can support folks I believe are fighting the good fight.

  3. I see your point. (And full disclosure: I worked at an indie bookstore–not Rainy Day–for 4.5 years. So my sympathies tend toward that direction, and that’s why this gets under my skin.)

    I also think good independents need to ensure they are as responsive to their customers as possible, not expect those customers to conform to the business owners’ conveniences. (But then I am probably just not Rainy Day’s target market, and I doubt they lose sleep over my failure to appear.)

  4. That’s funny – I spent much of my twenties working at Aldenbooksbay and Ordersbay, so I probably have an overdeveloped sense of contempt for corporate booksellers.

    Agreed with your point about being responsive to your customers. I do wish Rainy Day was more like, say, the Tattered Cover in Denver, an indie with big-box sensibility.

  5. shame on you, future librarian, for not giving librarians credit for being great reader’s advisors.

  6. I’m not saying that librarians can’t or don’t do RA: I’m just saying that this specific bookstore is a model for us to aspire to. I know of no library in the KC area than can do it as good as these guys can.

  7. I forgot to give you a hard time about using wikipedia as a reference. Wikipedia!!! You’re almost a librarian for cripes sake.

  8. Now, now. Don’t go and start dissing Wikipedia. Granted, it’s not the most reliable reference source in the world, but if you’re looking for a quick and nasty explanation for something, especially if it’s related to popular culture, it’s always a good start.

    (Plus, it’s easy to link to.)

  9. Stick to your guns on Wikipedia, Gregg, it’s a fantastic source and, I believe, has been shown to not be any worse than the online Encyclopedia Britannica when it comes to accuracy. Your quick and nasty explanation, especially as pertains to pop culture, is right on.
    Also, kudos for giving props to bookstore staff for providing reader’s advisory. Frankly, when booksellers are good at RA, they’re really really good at it. Particularly when you figure that many staff members (particularly at indie bookstores) are doing it for love of the game and even lower hourly salaries than most library staff make. I hope Rainy Day can stay open, even if it is only for truncated hours.


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