BAM! – Books a la Mall

As a book-lover and strong supporter of retail therapy, I have to say that I was a little excited to leave campus on a typically busy Wednesday afternoon to find myself in a Books A Million: cozily situated between a pizza shop and a Joanne’s Fabrics in a local shopping mall. However, it was with a bit of skepticism that my friends and I entered the supposedly run-down mall to go to a bookstore all of us had apparently seen before in our own hometowns. Books A Million, the second largest bookstore franchise in the United States, was a place that all of us had seen before in other locations across Pennsylvania… so what was going to make this one unique?

The locale of this particular Books A Million is within the Susquehanna Valley Mall, which sits along a strip of retail and food franchises connected to Selinsgrove’s main road, Market St. Just shortly after entering the strip, one can turn left into this large, yet slowly running mall which resides a variety of shops including department stores, health and beauty suppliers, knick-knack shops, and American food restaurants. Books A Million sits in one of the far corners of the mall near a rather large AMC movie theatre.

{ABOVE: a map of Selinsgrove’s main area of commerce. Because this area of Selinsgrove has so many restaurants, department stores, and retail chains, tagged in this map are some of the main staples. The mall itself is surrounded by several restaurants and other small shops, while North of it lies superstores such as Target, Walmart, and the shops of Monroe Marketplace. Susquehanna University and the heart of Selinsgrove lie South of this area.}

When first entering the Susquehanna Valley Mall, this is the map customers will see in order to direct them to all that the mall has to offer.

Despite the vast amount of things to do in this standard shopping mall, it was very much so empty (although it was the middle of a rainy afternoon on a weekday when I had the opportunity to visit). Those that were browsing the mall, and even the Books A Million itself, seemed to be retired men and women that wanted a casual way to spend their afternoon, a few college students that may have had some free time in their day, and mall security guards that found themselves with little to do on duty. Considering the majority of people that reside in Selinsgrove, however, this isn’t much of a surprise. With 35% percent of the population being college age (18-24) and a whopping 40% of the population being 50 years or older, the lack of bustling customers in this mall makes sense, (Selinsgrove, PA).

Even the mall itself was emptying, from the looks of it. Wandering through the mall, I saw that there were about 3 or 4 stores that were going out of business in the upcoming months, and even more vacant spaces for new stores to fill. Tons of stores had big red signs indicating 80 and 90% off “going out of business” sales, and those that were already closed had big metal bars blocking their entrances. Overall, despite the little clusters of life in those stores that managed to keep themselves a float, the Susquehanna Valley Mall was the opposite of what you would expect from a large shopping mall: quiet and empty.

 As we made our way to the Books A Million, my friends and I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the endless displays of romantic novels for Valentine’s Day, fan merchandise for fantasy series, and stuffed animals big enough to take up most of our dorm room beds. I, of course, bee-lined directly to the Harry Potter displays and had to talk myself out of buying a Hedwig stuffed animal for my dorm, which I’m sure proves the purpose of BAM! positioning its merchandise the way it did. Those that were in the bookstore were browsing the large, flashy displays of popular novels and the accompanying merch that went with it… not so much the long, winding line of bookshelves organized by genre. As a bookstore that seemed to be so full of life in such a quaint shopping mall, its place, or as Tim Cresswell describes it as “a space in which one defines as meaningful” or “sense of place”, was quite intriguing, (Place: A Short). Those that go into this Books A Million go for that book that they heard about from a friend or on social media, or so that they can get a new t-shirt to represent their beloved series. Books A Million is not just a house for books in the Selinsgrove area, but a place for entertainment and fan culture. Not only did Books A Million have those classic novels for the older generation of Selinsgrove’s population, but it also had the books of popular culture Susquehanna University and Selinsgrove School District students are desperate to get their hands on.

Books A Million is not the only bookstore available for the local reader and writer, and in my opinion certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing, but it certainly does show itself as an opportunity for books in the bustle of everyday life. When there isn’t a chance to get cozy in a café or library with a book, Books A Million is the place to go for the books everyone seems to be talking about.



Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Blackwell.

Fluke, Sarah. Books A Million Storefront. 6 Feb. 2019.

—. Susquehanna Valley Mall Map. 6 Feb. 2019.

“Selinsgrove, PA.” Data USA, Accessed 10 Feb. 2019.