There’s nothing like the feel of a bookstore. The smell of paper, ink and excitement lingers in the air of these stores, ripe with adventure. You’ll dig through stacks and shelves, not searching for anything, but walking out with armfuls of literature, enchanted by the novelty of the little space. The owner will greet you like a friend, help you find something and let you pet the cat by the till. One thing is for sure, you’ll leave your local bookstore happy.
We spoke with the owners of two local bookstores in the Coastal Bend to hear exactly what makes our local spots so magical: Carter Little of Corpus Christi’s Black Cat Books and Tom and Jill DiFrancesca of Kingsville’s The Novel Blend.
Black Cat Books has been open in its new location since late last year and carries just about every genre you could be looking for. Little’s business was born on a whim that became a dream. Out of his determination to become self-made and to give back to the community, he was able to make that dream a reality. His hope for the store is to provide the community with unbiased, uncensored, available literature.
The draw of the local bookstore is the magic of it, according to Little. “It’s a storehouse for a million worlds to be explored,” he shared. “The local bookstore inspires whimsy and imagination.” Bookstores are distributors of culture, and without that vessel for which knowledge flows, culture could not have (before cell phones at least) permeated the groups and individuals it influenced.” Local bookstores are invaluable to retaining our individual choice of education, and by extension, our individuality.
Black Cat Books carries contemporary literature, sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, horror, westerns/spies and thrillers. The nonfiction wall includes plenty of history, various scientific disciplines, biographies, philosophy, and political and economic theory. You’ll also find vintage and current academic books and rare collectibles.
The Novel Blend is located in historic downtown Kingsville. Owners Tom and Jill DiFrancesca dreamed of a revitalized, busier downtown Kingsville when they moved in four years ago, and have seen that dream realized. Champions of the local economy, the DiFrancescas are the unofficial ambassadors of downtown, keeping a finger on the pulse of upcoming businesses and recruiting new businesses to fill storefronts when they can. “If one of us thrives, we’re all going to thrive,” said Jill.
Little did they know, the Novel Blend and its locale were kismet. the DiFrancescas had no idea the space they’d chosen for their store had actually been a bookstore many years earlier until a customer donated a book with a bookstore stamp hosting the very same address.
The DiFrancescas have found through the adversity of the pandemic, the community has gathered around them to help. Either by donating boxes of books to be sold or attempting to buy out the store single-handedly, the community’s support is a testament to how beloved the store is. They are hoping to begin hosting more community events and recently hosted a series of mystery dinner theaters put on by a local improv troupe.
The Novel Blend carries almost every genre of fiction and non-fiction: mystery, thriller, romance, vintage finds, historical, biography and more. They also have a vintage vinyl section, where they carry records and cassette tapes in many different genres. If you want to hang out inside, they also have a section of board games and puzzles available to play, as well as coffee and wifi.
Tom and Jill have recently launched a podcast called A Series of Crazy Conundrums, in which Tom reads a series of science fiction short stories, and you can shop their store online.
If you’re in the Coastal Bend and want to support your local bookstores, make sure to also check out Books Inc–a locally owned bookstore in the Portland area with floor-to-ceiling shelves of used and new books to peruse–and By the Book, a woman-owned bookstore in Corpus Christi that carries novelty items as well as a diverse collection of literature.