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Political operative and avid reader Sally Bradshaw plans to open an independent bookstore in Tallahassee this fall. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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Sally Bradshaw’s next chapter

Growing up in Mississippi, she spent many weekends in the independent bookstore in her hometown. She even considered opening up her own store a few years ago, but politics — and her career in the thick of it — got in the way.

But with another campaign in the rearview mirror, Bradshaw has decided to take the plunge and open her own bookstore — Midtown Reader — in Tallahassee. She’s hopeful the shop will be a place where book lovers can gather and share their love of reading.

“My hope is we really provide a safe haven for critical thinking,” said the Havana resident, who served as senior adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush. “I think independent bookstores are places where people can read and think before they speak, where book lovers can gather and celebrate the power of reading and learning.”

While Bradshaw said she was thinking of opening a store for a while, it was an article she read on the campaign trail that helped convince her to take the next step. The story said Tallahassee had been ranked the smartest city in Florida and was one of the smartest cities in the nation.

Yet Bradshaw said the capital city didn’t have many independent bookstores. There were big box bookstores and campus bookstores, but Bradshaw said Tallahassee has “really never had a true independent bookstore.”

It’s clear that also driving Bradshaw are the hard-won lessons of this presidential campaign cycle.  “This political year is certainly evidence of the death of critical thinking. Some degree of rationality has to be resurrected.”

She’s hoping to change that. While she might be a political junkie at heart, Midtown Reader’s shelves won’t just be stocked with books about politics and campaigns. She wants to offer a little bit of everything, focusing on Florida books and authors. Bradshaw said there will also be an emphasis on children’s literature, and the shop will offer author readings and lectures.  But, there’s one book that probably won’t be front and center.  She said, “I doubt I’ll order extra copies of The Art of the Deal.”

“I think there is a need everywhere for more places for individuals to gather, read, and think and discuss what they feel is important, and do it in a civil setting where they can learn and grow,” she said. “We just hope it will be a community gathering place.”

Bradshaw says she plans to be at the store talking to customers and offering up suggestions to her fellow book lovers.

“I read everything,” said Bradshaw, who said she prefers hardcover books to tablets. “I am one of those readers who have five books going at once.”

The last thing she read? All the Light We Cannot See. The novel, by Anthony Doerr, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014, and tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths cross during World War II.

“It’s a remarkable story,” she said. “I would highly recommend it.”

Get ready for more recommendations this fall, when Midtown Reader opens. Bradshaw said she hopes to have the store, which will be located near Red Eye Coffee on Thomasville Road, open in November.

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