First Street in Port Angeles, on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, is a long way from Leslie Street in Newark, New Jersey, but Alan Turner, co-owner of Port Book and News, and author Philip Roth share a connection to both. Turner grew up in the same Newark house once occupied by Roth and his family, and he now keeps Roth's many titles in stock, along with about 75,000 other new and used books, in his 20-year-old community bookstore.
Turner, who co-owns the 2,200-square-foot Port Books and News with his wife, Cynthia, learned of his connection with Roth as a youth, when his father gave him a copy of Portnoy's Complaint, he told BTW. "I thought it was very cool that this famous writer had been in all the same rooms and places that I was. In The Plot Against America, he [Roth] describes the house very precisely; I recognized everything. But for some reason he changed the name of the street."
For Turner, books always figured prominently in his daily life -- he spent days at the public library as "an early form of childcare," he explained, where he "would read and sometimes nap." In his student days, he worked in libraries and then earned a degree in Library Science, although he never worked as a professional librarian. After working in management for United Parcel Service, Turner decided to change careers and consulted the career changer's bible, What Color Is Your Parachute? He eventually came to the realization that bookselling was his ideal occupation and became a manager at a bookstore in California.
Located between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains, Port Angeles, is an embarkation point for the ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, and, as such, hosts plenty of tourists, as well as a growing local business community.
Port Book and News is next door to a cafe and bakery, where many of the bookstore's author readings are held. Larger events are held at the Port Angeles Public Library.
The Turners have specialized in magazines, with an inventory of about 2,000 titles. "It's a lot of work," said Turner, "but people here really appreciate the access to so many publications."
On display at Port Book and News are the Book Sense monthly Picks, including reading group titles and children's books. "[Book Sense Picks] do very well for us, and we usually run out of the fliers," explained Turner, who added, "It's nice to see Book Sense Picks showing up on the other bestsellers lists.
"On our BookSense.com website, people often look up books, then come into the store and buy them. They can also find out about our events: we usually have one or two authors or poets per month, and we attract big audiences," he noted. "We like the concept of gathering with all of the other independents under the Book Sense umbrella." --Nomi Schwartz