The Lucky Tour: Joseph-Beth Booksellers

LuckyIntrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road this past summer for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Fourth of July is supposed to be fun. Mine was not. After drudging through an interminable rainstorm to get to JB3Mammoth Cave National Park, I realized that I had hit my limit. For the first time on my trip I didn’t want to explore; I didn’t want to go on a hike; I didn’t want to see a national park; I only wanted to sleep, sleep, sleep. So I went to my campground, prepared to set my tent and go to bed early, but the rain that plagued my drive had returned full-force. I waited in my car and, during an apparent break, ran out to make camp. I got all the equipment out of my trunk and then the skies opened up even wider than before. And I lost it. Completely broke down. If you’ve ever seen I Know What You Did Last Summer, you probably remember the scene where Jennifer Love-Hewitt starts screaming at some unknown presence. Yeah. That was me. Motioning wildly to Mother Nature as I got drenched and my tent got waterlogged, belting out nonsensical phrases like “BRING IT ON!” and “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?!?” to nobody in particular. Cut to two JB2hours later and, as fireworks popped overhead, I was eating green apple licorice at a rest stop outside Lexington preparing to sleep in my car for the night.

The next morning I was sore, still a little saturated, and in a terrible mood. I got myself refreshed and met Brooke Raby at Joseph-Beth Booksellers trying to fake a good attitude. As it turns out, I didn’t have to fake anything. Thanks to good conversation and a little Kentuckian delicacy called a beer-cheese burger I was rejuvenated and ready to soak in the sanctuary of books that is Joseph-Beth. Housed in an expansive two story building with a spectacular domed top, Joseph-Beth would be attractive if they sold broken remote controls, but filling all that space with books…it really is a sight you need to see. The top floor is dedicated to books for adults in every category you could want and the bottom floor is a virtual playground for kids and teenagers, providing them with all the JB1books they like, all the toys they desire, and great stops to interact and learn from each other. It’s a great way to provide for customers of all ages while keeping the raucous younger crowd from blowing the roof off the place (you know it happens, even at bookstores). With its fantastic layout and smart design, a little time in Joseph-Beth is the perfect cure for whatever ails you.

After introducing me to the awesomeness of beer-cheese, Marketing Manager Brooke Raby answered the Algonquin Questionnaire.

What inspired the name Joseph-Beth Booksellers?

JB6It actually comes from the middle names of the store’s founder and his wife. His middle name was Joseph, hers was Beth, and they were booksellers; a name was born.

What is your favorite Algonquin title?

I’ve got to say The Drunken Botanist from Amy Stewart is my favorite. The advanced reader copies were sent out with a special recipe for a Bookseller Cocktail, and it was fantastic.

What is your favorite Summer read?

JB7One of my favorite books of all time is The Shadow of the Wind from Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and it’s even better in the summer. More recently, I thought Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was incredibly accurate capturing the voice of a nineteen-year-old, which is not an easy thing to do.

Are there any unique talents on staff that would be fun to highlight?

There are a whole bunch. Our bookseller, Mark, is a stand up comedian. Another bookseller has a degree to be a film director. For any fans of the Serenity TV. series, we have someone on staff who knits a perfect version of the Jayne hat. We even have a game that we’ve created in the office where a few of us Photoshop pictures of former Harlem JB5Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon into our pictures. It’s like Rick Rolling, but with a specific Joseph-Beth spin on it. Oh, and we have Heather Chapman on staff who had the record for the lowest Jeopardy score (-$6,200) until it was broken in 2012.

Is there a particular area of the store that people flock to?

I don’t think there is. We make a concerted effort for the entire store to be appealing in its own way. A lot of people like to read at our fireplace, but usually our customers spread out and are happy to have their own space at Joseph-Beth. And we’re big enough to allow for it.

JB4What is the strangest thing you’ve been asked while working at Joseph-Beth?

I remember one customer who returned a Harry Potter wand because it “didn’t work.” Don’t know exactly what he was expecting it to do, but it was just a piece of memorabilia. There was also a customer who came in looking for books on vampires because he wanted to know if one of “the goth kids down the street” was actually a vamp.

Next stop: The Morris Bookshop in Lexington, Kentucky.

*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…

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