A new podcast by local author Matt Browning goes “behind the shelves with booksellers” to focus on independent bookstores.
Launched on Tuesday, July 26, “Bookstore Explorer” is available on all major podcasting platforms.
In each episode, Browning talks with a bookseller about his or her shop, from what inspired them to open a bookstore to how they manage to survive and thrive in the age of e-readers and online retail. Topics range from how inventory is chosen, how business has fared during the pandemic, quirky customer interactions, and more.
“I hear time after time that bookstores are magical places, and that’s a concept I want to really dig into with the show” Browning said in a release. “Bookstores speak to people like no other retail shopping experience. They’re so often more than just a store — they become part of the fabric of community. I want to meet the people who keep that magic alive all over the country.”
Browning began chronicling his bookstore explorations on social media several years ago, which led to the creation of a “Bookstore Explorer” blog, where he shares written profiles of the shops he visits, and, eventually, his first book, a travel guide to the independent bookstores in West Virginia.
“Bookstore Explorer: West Virginia” was released in 2019.
“Most people plan travel around big attractions or maybe food, but I immediately start searching for bookstores wherever I visit,” said Browning, a self-proclaimed lover of books — and, by extension, bookstores — since childhood. “I’ve been to some fantastically unique shops and met so many interesting people over the years that I want to find every way possible to spotlight these stories.”
In 2021, the Charleston resident and some friends self-produced a pilot episode of a “Bookstore Explorer” television series to test the concept in a video format.
“It’s the perfect idea for a travel TV series. I call it ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ meets Shakespeare and Company,” he said, referring to a long-running food/travel television series and the famous Paris bookshop.
Browning visited two bookstore cafés in the episode. The video was released on YouTube and social media earlier this summer.
A podcast seemed the next natural evolution for the idea, he said. The first episode features a discussion with the owner of Conquest Books, a new bookstore in Ashland, Kentucky, that shares space with an art gallery and coffee shop.
Upcoming episodes will feature a Portland, Oregon, book pub and a Pennsylvania Airbnb that offers visitors the chance to spend the night in the book shop.
Browning’s other books include the Mom’s Choice Award-winning “Chicks and the City,” a children’s picture book about urban farming, and “The Definitive Golden Girls Cultural Reference Guide,” an encyclopedia of the thousands of pop culture references from the classic television series.