In a way it feels like home.
Possibly this has something to do with personal history, a connection to the Gables and Grove that dates back to the early 1920s when my grandfather left Hackensack (then mostly swamp and pig farms) for a better life in South Florida (then mostly swamp). It was not the place a tourist today might imagine. The terrain was still a little rough, but Opa loved everything about it. The look of the land. The proximity to water. The refuge it offered. He came to Florida, found work as rumrunner and fisherman, and never looked back.
Opa was a great storyteller. He taught me about pirates and guns, gators and snakes, wahoo and amberjack, mysterious islands, prohibition booze and laundered money. He told me about a fight he had with Castro…the stories all sounded too good to be true. When he was ninety-four years old, however, he was arrested at Hialeah Park for assaulting a race-track attendant with his cane. This incident gave me pause, making me wonder just how many of his stories were true.
In a world where everything turns on the present, where lives are defined by the moment, this connection to the past is significant. It’s what defines Books & Books and one of the reasons I come back.
The attraction of greater Miami remains as alluring today as it was in my grandfather’s time. The action may be different but the sense of it is the same. People feel alive here. The settlers, of course, have known this for a long time. Mitch knew it when he broke ground here some twenty-five years ago.
Books & Books offers solace, refuge, knowledge, and conversation. It is a store burnished by history and populated by ghosts (Henry Flagler, Carl Fisher, the Hurricane of 1926). It is a place where you can share stories, read stories, hear one told or tell a good one yourself. It is a place my grandfather would have loved. It is a civic minded establishment where the greater public good is always a consideration. It also happens to be one of the best bookstores in the country, one whose proprietor helped put Miami on the literary map.
A man can walk a long time in this world before he comes upon a place where books are shelved with loving hands and strangers are made to feel welcome. But that has been my experience, and the experience of others, at Books & Books. “It felt like entering a room and being greeted by my family,” one author said to me upon arrival at the store. I know exactly what he meant. It felt like coming home.
As a publisher, as a reader, as a citizen of the world, it gives me great pleasure to acknowledge this twenty-fifth anniversary year at Books & Books.
Senior Vice President
Executive Director of Publicity, Promotion and Media Relations
Alfred A. Knopf