In his book The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg discusses the importance of "third places," settings different from our standard social gathering spots of work and home. These are the places where friendships are formed, the spots where communities become closer and where relationships are maintained.
Unfortunately, the third places in our lives are disappearing. We're much more likely to gather around a computer screen and find our social identities on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. And I understand that. I have long distance friends I cherish, and often the best, most convenient ways to "gather" with those people are online.
Chances are, too, that your primary "third place" is a church or a synagogue. This is the South, where faith-based gathering spots are not just popular; they're the norm. And again, I understand that. I have always found church to be a home, a familiar place in the chaos of life. But church is, I think, a different kind of third place.
Oldenburg argues that third places involve no kind of obligation (which, let's face it, church can be). Conversation is the main activity, and social and economic status don't matter. A third place will have "regulars" but also will welcome newcomers, and the mood is light and playful.
I know what you're thinking: I'm basically describing an episode of Cheers. And you know, I bet bars can be lovely third places, if that's your thing. Coffee shops, too. I'd say Central Perk -- and our very own Grassroots -- count as third places.
But what about the bookstore as a third place? We've certainly got our regulars, and conversation abounds. You can come and go as you please, and we're going to try our very best to learn your name.
I believe strongly in the concept of bookstores as third places; one of my main goals for The Bookshelf is to cement the shop as a gathering place for all types of people to meet and mingle and talk about books (and, subsequently, life). I see little glimmers of this every day, and I can't tell you how happy it makes me.
Sometimes, though, everyone needs a little push to get out of their comfort zones and come inside our doors.
That's why next Friday, November 7, we're hosting a Soup Night at the bookstore.
One of our favorite cookbooks, Soup Night, features recipes for large quantities of soup, encouraging readers to host soup nights in their neighborhoods and communities. So it hit us: Why not host our own Soup Night at The Bookshelf?
It's First Friday downtown, which means -- along with several other shops on our block -- we'll be open until 8. There's a concert down on the other end of our block, and the weather should be beautiful. (Fingers crossed.)
Next Friday is free and open to the public; we've also got a couple of authors coming in for a book signing, so it should be a fun time -- the perfect weekend to start calling The Bookshelf your very own third place.
For more information, hop on over to our Facebook page. We hope we'll see you there! (I'm making corn chowder, if that helps your decision-making at all.)
See you in the shop,