Quail Ridge is the major independent bookstore in Raleigh, NC–hometown of David and Amy Sedaris. It was voted the Best Bookstore of the Year by Publishers Weekly about a decade ago, and rightly so–you can’t enter it without feeling dazzled and buying at least a handful of books. Seriously. Just try.
Nancy Olson, owner of Quail Ridge and one of the most beloved booksellers in the biz, kindly took the time to share with us her favorite books and more.
What books recently rocked my world:
Butterfly’s Child by Angela Davis-Gardner (coming in April)
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
New Stories from the South, 2010, edited by Amy Hempel
Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger by Lee Smith
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Best damn event we’ve hosted:
For Money: Jimmy Carter (sold 2,000 books, beating Dan Quayle by 900)
Most Meaningful: Kathryn Ferguson with Crossing with the Virgin, true stories by members of the Samaritans, a group offering medical aid to migrants in the Arizona desert
Best Dressed: Robin Preiss Glasser and 200 little girls dressed in sequins and pearls for the book, Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique
Most entertaining author we’ve hosted:
How can we pick between David Sedaris, Amy Sedaris, Alton Brown, or Alexander McCall Smith?
Strangest question a customer has ever asked:
“I have a gun; may I have all your money?” (Robbery during an event with Mama Dip)
What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome:
They bring us lots of food at Christmas; they volunteer to help out with events and anything else we need (like vacuuming floors).
I promise you won’t find this at any other store:
Eight-foot display featuring award-winning books; section dedicated to presidents and their families; section featuring books imported from Britain.
If I weren’t selling books, I’d be:
On a tropical island discussing literature (and other things) with Michael Chabon while Hill Harper (voted best-looking author) massages my back and Alton Brown catches fish for my dinner.
Books that changed my life:
Some of the books of the 19th & 20th Century that developed my love of reading when I was young; e.g., The Scarlet Pimpernel, Pride & Prejudice, Green Grass of Wyoming; recently: Matterhorn, a novel of the Vietnam War; Susan Richards’ beautiful memoirs, Chosen By a Horse and Saddled; and Richard Holloway’s Looking In the Distance: The Human Search for Meaning.
Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party:
Michael Sandel (author of Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do), Bill Bryson, Sam Harris.
Top three songs on the soundtrack to my life:
Was raised on classical music, but once in awhile turned serious with Buddy Holly and Fats Domino.
My last meal request:
Pinto beans and crusty corn bread