Books A bookstore wearing a big hat will stride into Broad Ripple this week. Elizabeth Houghton’s Big Hat Books fills the space next to the Monon Coffee Shop with some community conviviality organized around the literately written word. The grand opening party this Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. will also serve as the launch party for The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures: 1,001 Things You Hate to Love by local authors Sam Stall, Lou Harry and Julia Spalding. Elizabeth Houghton's Big Hat Books will open its doors on Friday. In an era of “big box” everything, starting an exciting little enterprise like Big Hat takes no small measure of guts. At BookExpo in Chicago on a stocking spree, Houghton wondered if people were right when they asked if she is “crazy to be starting up an independent” store. But more were enthusiastic at the prospect and other local book people there waxed nearly ecstatic, which was good news to Houghton. “Independents are reliant on community support to keep these cultural hubs alive and thriving. Without a citywide commitment to their success they can’t make it.”
She intends to foster such commitment by working with literati of all varieties: writers, libraries, literary organizations. The store will have a special meeting area for reading and writing groups and book clubs. The whole space is “small enough to rub shoulders with distinguished neighbors and visiting luminaries, large enough to have public readings and launch parties for books and their writers.” Houghton promises a lively schedule for gathering interesting minds together. She has the right connections in the business via her experience as reviewer for the Los Angeles Times Book Review and story analyst for 20th Century Fox, not to mention her novelist-husband Dan Barden and a host of literary friends, including her brother Jamie, who is an indispensable partner in creating and running Big Hat Books.
At the heart of Houghton’s concept for the store is service to the special, if general, interests of fellow reader-thinkers of all ages. At Big Hat, they’ll find “books that are destined to become classics in their fields,” whether fiction, poetry, essays, art, biography or “illustrated gardening manuals.”
What’s behind the joy at such risk? Houghton misses the unusual and intriguing items she’d run into in neighborhood bookstores of her past. “I especially miss the hard-to-find people who gently pushed me into unknown territory or challenged me to dig deeper and discover a passion hidden under a spark of interest.”
That longing for shared exploration should be fulfilled in Big Hat. The owner recognizes that such stores have strong holds on the memories of all urban book lovers and Houghton intends that “the bookstore should feel as though it has always been there, and always will be.” Such a vision stirs intellectual passions. Informed of the quickly coming shop, one local reader cheerfully commented that “many have dreamed of starting this store, now we’ll be able to live it vicariously.”