Could Amazon do this for us? (No.)

The Best Books of 2011 (Matt McClain/Susana Sanchez-Young)

It all started more than a month ago when Susana said she needed all our favorite books of the year because she’d reserved the photo studio for later that day. She had this — I thought — crazy idea of making the books into stars and photographing them from above. But the whole plan seemed to fall apart because we didn’t have more than 10 or 12 of the books on hand. (We don’t keep books once they’ve been reviewed because about 150 new ones come crashing in every day.)

It seemed like a bold request bordering on rude, but I decided to call up Politics and Prose Bookstore and ask if we could “borrow” more than 100 books. Remarkably, they didn’t even blink.

“When do you need them?” one of the managers asked.

“We’ll come right now,” I said.

Susana and our editorial aide, Tim Smith, buzzed over to the store in a Zip Car (in the rain!) to find a reading in full swing at Politics and Prose. But the staff helped them find all the books and then happily sent them off with $3,000 in merchandise.

I’m still a little stunned by the store’s trust and generosity. (Yes, we returned the book two days later.)

As Amazon tries to bribe customers into turning indie bookstores into its showrooms on Saturday, I’m especially grateful for these local merchants. It’s not just that they employ our neighbors and pay local taxes; they’re also part of our community, which means — among many other things — that they can respond to even weird requests like ours. So thanks, Politics and Prose. Once again, I’m glad you’re here.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.


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