The sidewalk in Savannah, Georgia, shines with mother-of-pearl from the old oyster shells buried in the concrete. Forget streets paved with gold...i'll take oyster shells any day. Mostly to eat (because there is no better town for food in the whole USofA). But the streets are also wonderful for book-browsing, as i discovered when i stumbled upon the marvellous indie bookshop E. Shaver Booksellers, which nestles beneath the Spanish moss of a live oak.
I expected a shop dedicated to tourist books & innumerable editions of Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil (which kicked off the historical district's relentless walking tours). But Esther Shaver's bookshop is much much more, a real resource for readers and writers. See what i mean by checking out their current recommended reading list--the kind of bookshop where you can throw a dart & know you'll hit something interesting. (no, don't actually DO this or you'll stab the bookseller.)
After Shaver's, i walked around wondering what Midnight author John Berendt is working on these days. His follow-up to Midnight was a book about Venice, which didn't suit him so well as the lazy hot streets of Savannah. I tried to be positive when i reviewed his City of Falling Angels for The Globe & Mail in 2005: 'Berendt's charm as a raconteur suits the narrow Venetian streets, but some of his stories lead straight into a dead-end calle.'
Later, i read an even more cutting review by Jan Morris, travel writer & Venice expert extraordinaire. Reviews are hard...should you always be honest? Well, yes... But i still love Midnight in the Garden. And wandering around Savannah as a tourist, it's hard to imagine the city without Berendt's book.
ps. here's a full list of bookshops in Savannah, including Shaver's address