Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Bookery in Socorro

After buying asaderos at Licon’s Dairy, I drove Laura, Aaron, and Isaac to one of my favorite independent bookstores, The Bookery in Socorro, on the east side of El Paso.  The Bookery is walking distance from the historic Socorro Mission, one of the three missions on the Mission Trail.

The Bookery is an adobe labyrinth stuffed with books on tables, books on the floor, books overflowing on bookshelves.  It is easily the best place for buying Latino literature in El Paso, but this bookstore has so much more: young adult books, history books on El Paso and the Southwest, hundreds of picture books for kids, a menagerie of stuffed animals, Mexican calacas, Christmas decorations, trinkets hanging from vigas on the ceiling.  After a dusty trek through the desert, I feel as if I’ve walked into a treasure room whenever I visit The Bookery.

But as I chatted with Margaret Barber, longtime owner, I worried.  She told me this has been her toughest year financially.  Of course, her bookstore has suffered as most of the book industry has suffered.  People are reading less.  Young adults, and others, prefer to download books electronically, rather than holding books in their hands.

To add to Margaret’s troubles, some in El Paso confused the closing of another wonderful bookstore, the Book Gallery, with The Bookery.  School districts and teachers stopped ordering from The Bookery, with the assumption that The Bookery had closed.  Yes, the Book Gallery in El Paso closed (alas), but The Bookery in Socorro is still open, and alive.  We need to support it.

Where else can you find an owner who has read hundreds of the books she sells?  Who will sit with you on her porch under the rough-hewn vigas, offer you coffee, and talk about books, and the famous writers who have visited her store, and the scuttlebutt of the neighborhood?  Margaret is unstintingly honest, and will pointedly let you know when an author, or his or her work, is not up to snuff in her estimation.  Isn’t that what everyone wants, an honest opinion?  Don’t you want to be introduced to a new author, or pointed in a new literary direction, by a book lover who possesses an uncanny memory?  Let me tell you, you don’t get a Margaret Barber on Amazon, and you don’t get her at Barnes and Noble.  You get her only at The Bookery.

I hope if you are shopping for the holidays, or if you are savoring warm asaderos from Licon’s Dairy, or if you yearn for an afternoon of intelligent, irreverent conversation about books, that you will hit the brakes at The Bookery on Socorro Road.  We need independent bookstores, we need independent voices, we need people thinking and arguing passionately about what should be in your brain, and why.  What we don’t need is more homogenization, or mass-market brainwashing.

To open up your mind, go to The Bookery on El Paso’s historic Mission Trail, at 10167 Socorro Road.  Margaret’s phone number is 915-859-6132.  From I-10, you get off at Americas Avenue, follow Americas (Loop 375) until you get to Socorro Road, and then head east.  As soon as you pass the Socorro Mission, The Bookery is on the left side.  It is one of those places worth fighting for.