The many faces and locations of Sanibel Island's MacIntosh Books.
On my last trip to see accounts in Florida I thought it was about time to visit this fine bookstore once again. Usually I need to just stick to the big cities and higher volume bookstores but every once in a while I think it's important to visit some of my more "out of the way" stores. Susie Holly is the wonderful owner, here are some of her memories and thoughts on living on this beautiful island:
MacIntosh Books was founded on Sanibel Island in 1960 by William MacIntosh, a rather gruff Scotsman who loved books, so you know he was a good guy behind that scowl.
I remember buying books from him when I first came to his shop in the 1970s.
He sat behind the counter totally surrounded by stacks of books—pretty much a mess as I recall.
I loved going there to find treasures—so much so that I came back 25 years later and bought the entire store and all its treasures.
We recently moved the bookstore into its fifth location in its 56-year history—and we think it is the best ever.
Tell me about where you live and why you love it so much.
Our customers often remind me that I am living a dream: running a bookstore in paradise. I live and work on Sanibel Island on the gulf coast of Florida. It is truly a little slice of paradise. Many dedicated people have worked very hard to prevent Sanibel from becoming overdeveloped. The island is two-thirds nature preserve, building heights and densities are restricted, there are no traffic lights on the island. Yes, it’s a resort island where many people come to vacation, but behind the tourist industry, there’s a great functioning community with a comfortable small-town feel.
Where were you living when you were 7 years old? Are they fond memories?
I grew up in Indianapolis, surrounded by salt-of-the-earth, very kind Mid-westerners. I had a best friend, Becky, down the street and we spent hour upon hour exploring every inch of the neighborhood. The public library, just a few blocks away, was a favorite destination and led to far greater explorations.
Did you have a favorite teacher and are you still in touch with him or her?
My high school English teacher, the stately and dignified Mrs. Carnahan, convinced me I had a way with words. So I took that to heart and became a journalist/writer/editor, and, eventually, bookseller.
Is there a book that changed the way you look at life?
Anna Karenina introduced a new world to me. I loved knowing that such a world existed and, even more importantly, that it could be described so brilliantly by a writer.
Do you have a favorite children’s book and what about it makes it so?
Sam and the Firefly is the first book I ever read completely by myself. I was so proud, and I loved the story. I will always keep Sam the owl and Gus the firefly close to my heart. (And, coincidentally, I now have two nephews named Sam and Gus.) Winnie-the-Pooh is a very close second. I appreciate the wisdom of that silly bear.
What are the funniest or most embarrassing stories your family tells about you?
I was the baby of the family so I will forever be the “spoiled brat” in their eyes. I accept it willingly. There are some virtues to being spoiled.
How did you meet your beloved? How did your first date go?
We shared a very small office as reporters for a small newspaper. No first date, really. Love just happened as we sat side by side typing our news articles. Now married almost 30 years.
Is there a song that you listen to when you are feeling a bit down?
I tend to listen to sad songs when I’m sad. That probably doesn’t help.
How are you different now than you were 20 years ago?
I worry less about little things. Choose my battles more carefully. Pay attention. Work less, read more.
And the time travel question:
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME
to any period from before recorded history to yesterday,
be safe from harm, be rich, poor or in-between, if appropriate to your choice,
actually experience what it was like to live in that time, anywhere at all,
meet anyone, if you desire, speak with them, listen to them, be with them.
When would you go?
Where would you go?
Who would you want to meet?
And most importantly, why do you think you chose this time?
I would never give up a chance to go to Paris in any era, so why not choose the belle époque for the chance to listen in on the conversations of the extraordinarily creative people living in that time and place. I would arrange a side trip to Russia to meet Tolstoy, then in the midst of writing Anna Karenina, though I wouldn’t want to distract him for too long from his work in creating what would become my life-changing book.
Thanks Susie, what an incredible meeting that would be.
Now all I have to do is figure out how I can justify visiting you
A LOT more often!
A LOT more often!