Best Newsstand - 2003
Bob's News and Books
Bob's is crammed with books for which the public is not clamoring (witness the large section on survivalism and weaponry), laden with kinky sex material that some customers might find off-putting (see whips for sale on display above the cash register), and its shelves are fraught with arcane literary magazines and poetry quarterlies whose readership comprises a paper-thin segment of the reading public. Bob's (the store's namesake departed more than 30 years ago, leaving Sherry Steinberg and Seth and Bonnie Cohen to carry on) is the creation of bonafide bibliomaniacs, i.e., people who own their own shop and put in it what they want, best-seller lists and massive monthly returns be damned. In a place where the literary selection includes Girlyhead, Bitch, and Wonka Vision as well as Granta and Zoetrope, riffling yields gold. To find Atlantic Monthly, one pushes aside a copy of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho and sorts through overlapping copies of Zink, Razor, Vellum, and American Cowboy before finding it in the business section near the Harvard Business Review, Vending Times, and the tantalizing Minnesota Law & Politics. And, yeah, it's true, you can find some of this stuff at your local big-box bookstore. And there you can carry the magazine to the little café, buy a latte and an overpriced muffin, take a seat, and read to your heart's content. But doesn't it bother you just a little that some wonk sensed that the predilections of bookish intellectual introverts, such as yourself, could be marketed to the masses? And that they turned out to be right? Bob's doesn't sell lattes. It doesn't have a café. There's a park bench outside the front door. And somehow, in our overengineered retail landscape, that's comforting.