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Gayle's December Letter

Gayle ShanksDear Bookstore Friends,

The month of December has slipped away with nary a word from me to you, our loyal customers and friends. It's been busy at Changing Hands. Very busy, and this is a good thing. Books and gifts have been flying off the shelves, finding new homes with your friends and family, I expect. And hopefully you've found a few things to treat yourself with this holiday season. I just read an article that said that self-gifting at this time of year is healthy and wise—it keeps us sane and improves our sense of self-worth. I call it "retail therapy."

I had a very enjoyable shopping trip with two women friends last week. We decided to shop locally and started by eating at one of my favorite lunch spots, St. Francis on Camelback near Central. A few weeks earlier I had been to nearby Frances Boutique and bought lots of unusual gifts, so we skipped that store and traipsed to several antique stores on and near Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road in the Melrose District. We came across some wonderful treasures—a large metal olive basket from Turkey, outdoor candle holders for the patio, antique earrings and doorstoppers, a beautiful grate that was once a floor furnace cover and will now hang over my friend's fireplace, and on and on. We circled back to an art and antiques store on Sixteenth Street called The Bees Knees, where we found a few more things, including a wool nurses cape: navy on the outside with bright red lining. It was fun, mostly because we laughed so much and enjoyed being together. And, of course, because many of the gifts were for ourselves.

Chanukah came early this year and is already over, but not before we had our annual latke party with friends and family. We lit candles, sang songs, and ate a huge amount of latkes smothered with sour cream and delicious homemade applesauce. No young children around the menorah this year, but all of us acted silly, grabbed gifts away from one another in the white elephant game, and went through a few bottles of good wine. Again, like shopping with friends, it was the warmth in the room from those who were there that was the greatest gift. The older I get, the more I appreciate the friends and family with whom I have shared so many good times. They have provided sustenance in difficult situations, and joy and laughter the rest of the time.

And that is also what all of you, our wonderful customers, provide for us each year. You bring us gifts of cookies and pickles and poems and book recommendations. You bring your children to see the Grinch and listen to stories read by our storytellers. You bring us your aging parents who no longer want to acquire books but want to be around them. You bring yourselves, week after week, year after year, and we reacquaint ourselves with your lives and your reading tastes. We delight in the gift of your friendship and your willingness to keep us alive and thriving in these days of electronic online shopping. We survive and are able to keep 35 employees working—happily putting books into your hands and finding the perfect gift when you need one. At the end of the day we go home tired but happy. Bookselling is a job that requires passion for the written word, a love of authors and their writing, and a belief that we need bookstores in our communities, for more reasons than books alone. Independent stores like Changing Hands provide a community gathering place; a place to learn and to laugh, share stories, meet other people, read, dream, think, connect. Thank you all for your help in making such a place.

All of the Changing "Hands" wish you a very merry holiday and a healthy, wonderful New Year.


Questions or comments? Email Gayle at

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