Radio Bristol Book Club: The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Each month, readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together to celebrate and explore one book inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage. We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 11:00am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

The subtitle of Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap almost says it all: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book. What it leaves out is the struggle that it takes to become part of an insular community, suspicious of outsiders, in the Appalachian Mountains during an economic downturn. It also leaves out the joy and terror of following a dream. While they didn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms, Wendy and husband Jack Beck were a bit taken aback by the number of times people summed up their venture with the statement “You’re nuts.” Making connections with an interesting assortment of characters, Wendy and Jack strive not only to succeed as booksellers but to become a resource, refuge, and perhaps most amazingly, an animal rescue. How they succeed makes for wonderful and inspiring reading.

Left: The cover of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap has a black-and-white drawing of the bookstore with the title and author's name on it. Right: The large white house, which served as the book store, has shelves of books on the porch and a toilet sitting in the front yard!

The cover of Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, along with a photograph of the actual bookstore from the Bristol Herald Courier.

Wendy Welch has a degree in Ethnography, a Scottish husband, and an assortment of animals, all of whom figure in this delightful and thoughtful memoir. In addition to The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Wendy is the author of Fall or Fly: The Strangely Hopeful Story of Foster Care and Adoption in Appalachia and Bad Boy in the Book Store (ebook), and the editor of From the Front Lines of the Appalachian Addiction Crisis and Public Health in Appalachia.

Jack Beck (white-haired with a beard, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans) and Wendy Welch (brown-haired and wearing a black top with a colorful print skirt or dress) stand with their arms around each other in front of floor to ceiling shelves of books.

Wendy Welch with her husband Jack Beck in their Big Stone Gap bookstore. Image from Shelf Awareness

Be sure to tune in on Thursday, August 27 at 11:00am to hear the book club discussion about The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time – the librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this delightful story!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for September is Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of the Century by Barry Mazor, which we’ll be discussing on Thursday, September 24. Happy reading!

Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director of the Bristol Public Library.

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