Current Sonora Review intern Samantha Edmiston reviews the Singing Wind Bookshop in Benson, Arizona.
Singing Wind Bookshop—located on a small ranch in Benson, Arizona and surrounded by breathtaking desert—embodies quaint serenity. When sitting on the wooden bench in front of the shop, one can feel the wind whirling around the building, causing one’s ears to ring with the rushing air; as the name suggests, the wind truly does sing. On my first visit in 2012, I was greeted by Winifred (Winn) Bundy, owner, caretaker, and 84-year-old lover of books with a spunky attitude, and her loving, beast of a dog, Chester Einstein. She gave me the traditional tour and revealed to me the shop’s structural insanity—if you’re looking for a bookshop organized by author last name, you won’t find it here.
On Singing Wind’s 40th anniversary, which occurred on April 6th, 2014, I visited the shop again, and spoke with Winn in more depth about her bookshop. When asked how she organizes her shelves, Winn replied,“By subject and further subdivided. If it was organized by author’s last name, nobody would ever find anything. What a person puts on their shelves, and how they organize it, is subjective to them.”
My initial tour to the bookshop involved a whirlwind of gesturing, explanations of what’s on the shelves, and descriptions of the unique shelves that house the books.
“This book shop is built from natural elements. Our shelves are mesquite, some four inches thick. We used the wood from our own trees on this property. You aren’t going to see this wood anywhere. These shelves are unique, the most fantastic around,” Winn explained.
Winn and her husband built Singing Wind Bookshop over forty years ago. “There were two things that I wanted desperately when I was younger; an ice-cream shop and a bookshop, because I’d have the two things that I loved: books and ice cream. But, I knew that I could never, and will never, mix food with books. They’re extremely precious. Don’t ever break a book’s spine. Books are your friend, you don’t break your friend’s spine, do you?”
Winn is known to bustle around the shop, excited to entice every customer into seeing the bookshop (and the world) through her eyes.
“I see a variety of people from diverse backgrounds: people from Russia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America. It’s a pit stop for them, really. I once had a young Russian woman come over, specifically to see my shop, who had a chip on her shoulder this high,” Winn raised her hand to her neck. “She came in and said ‘I’m not going to like this at all.’ I told her, ‘Fine,’ but gave her the tour anyway. After the tour she said, ‘I don’t believe this,’ and was a completely different person! People are all the same underneath; you just have to look deep sometimes to see it.”
Winn wants each customer to leave with a unique experience to take back home with him or her. She said, “My main goal is to give the right book to the right person. I don’t care how I do it.” Winn also has advice for young writers, saying, “Write. You won’t write well for a long time.”
Singing Wind hosts many events for elementary and high schools. “It’s an absolute joy; the children love it. The kids from high school, not so much in the beginning. Even they come in thinking that they won’t care about this stuff, but the love it too, in the end.” Authors like Lawrence Clark Powell, Janelle Cannon, and Conrad Storad often visit the store and read to children during the programs. The shop holds three events throughout the year, including the Cowboy/Cowgirl Round-Up in January and the Thanksgiving Fiesta in November. Authors such as Joyce Aros, Marry Ellen Barnes, Alan Day, Larry Dempster, Doug Hocking, Carol Sletten, and Midji Stephenson, along with musical guests, are asked to speak and perform at these events.
An exceptional character, Winn’s energy and passion radiate throughout the shop. She says, “I love people, finding out about all of our lives. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Packed full of Arizonan and Southwestern literature, Singing Wind offers endless gems tucked away in the shelves and is a worthwhile adventure for any bookshop lover. You’ll find old and new books, Chester Einstein’s tail will whip at your legs, and Winn’s insightful stories will fill the room. Singing Wind provides a truly unique experience for anyone who is lucky enough to step inside its doors.
Singing Wind Bookshop
700 W Singing Wind Rd.
Benson, AZ 85602
Samantha Edmiston is a student at the University of Arizona. She currently serves as an intern for Issue 66 of Sonora Review.