Bestselling author John Grisham is on his first book tour in 25 years, promoting his newest book, Camino Island. This afternoon, he visited Bookmarks in Winston-Salem to sign books and meet with readers and local writers. Grisham is also publishing a podcast recorded at each stop called “Book Tour with John Grisham.” I spoke with him about the importance of independent bookstores, the art of the beach book and his impressions of North Carolina.

Q: You’re on your first book tour in 25 years. Why did you decide to get back on the road?

A: Curiosity, mostly. I’ve always wanted to visit the great independent bookstores and to meet the people who’ve been selling books for a long time to say thanks and to meet local writers — I invite a few in for every podcast at every store.

Q: Why are independent bookstores significant to you?

A: Nowadays, they’re crucial because we’ve lost so many bookstores. In the last 20 years, we’ve lost probably 3-4,000 bookstores nationwide. We lost 700 the day Borders went bankrupt and Barnes & Noble is down to about 700. Bookstores were closing like crazy 20 years ago and then there was a thought that, with the rise of the internet, bookstores would go away but they are increasing in number and thriving just like this one right here. I think what you learn here in Winston-Salem is that a city’s got to have a bookstore. I’ll bet you 30 years ago there were four or five bookstores in Winston-Salem, and they all disappeared. People are always attracted to great independent bookstores, and a community has got to have one.

Q: Your wife is from Chapel Hill and you’ve spoken about several family connections to the state. Five of the 13 stops on your book tour are booked in North Carolina. As a Southerner yourself, what are your impressions of North Carolina?

A: A lot of great bookstores and a lot of good young writers who are writing good stuff and getting published. I’ve had a chance to meet a lot of those guys and ladies along the way. For some reason, there are a lot of writers working in North Carolina, and it’s been very enjoyable.[pullquote]Learn about the podcast “Book Tour with John Grisham” at [/pullquote]

Q: Do you have a favorite writer from the state?

A: I would say Clyde Edgerton, Jill McCorkle or Kaye Gibbins, who is a favorite from way back. There are a lot of them.

Q: If you could suggest someone read any other book than yours this summer, what would you recommend?

A: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Green. It’s a great read, a great story.

Q: In your second podcast episode, you speak with Ann Patchett and Jon Meacham in Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn. You spoke about one of your first critics dismissing your novel as a “beach book” and reacted by exclaiming “I’ll show [him] a beach book!” Why do you think the beach book is an important genre?

A: It’s the ultimate summer read. It’s a gift to readers, to booksellers and to people who love books. It was designed to take on the beach.

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