This weekend while wandering through an area we haven’t explored much yet, J and I found what might be the perfect book store.
The store front looked like any other small (but non-chain) book store, with a huge, light-up sign and a sale rack out front, but the sign on the door said “cell phone free zone” and as soon as we stepped inside, we heard old jazz drifting over the bookshelves and the sidewalk noise disappeared.
The shelves were about ten feet high and close together, spanning in a large U shape around a central check-out counter, perfect for a movie character to topple, domino-style. When we first walked through the door, I wandered to the left toward the children’s books (always my first stop), and was surprised to find large stacks of books on the floor, as if someone had just been looking through them and then leaving them there, one after the other. Old wooden toys and huge stuffed animals were scattered through the section and I had to step carefully over all of the clutter, but that didn’t bother me. There was something charming about it, the way a kids’ section should be. Looking closer at the books, I discovered that while many of them were brand new, many were also used, all mixed together as if there was no difference and simply shelved by author. I even found a treasure, but I’ll get back to that later.
As I made the round past the children’s section and toward the back, the books ranged into crafting, cooking, self-help, history… then the literature, poetry, science fiction, biographies. I found that the whole store had piles of books, not just on the shelves, but in front of the shelves and on tables and on top of other furniture and in nooks and crannies and they all had this wonderful book smell– the new book and musty old book smells mingling– and everywhere I looked I saw things that interested me. Step stools placed strategically helped me more in stepping over and around the piles than in reaching the top shelves (though if I’d wanted, they were there for that, too), and the more I wandered, the more I found.
The end stops of all of the shelves were different again; they held much older books, some in protective slipcovers and some simply stacked on top of one another, all from the genre of whatever was in the main aisle. Hardbacks and cloth-bindings and peeling leather and gold embossing and yellow spots on paper. Hardbacks of books I love and of books I haven’t seen before in my life and about thirty Stephen Kings nestling under a table, though I wondered if they were acting as a table leg.
The whole place was wonderful. The only thing missing? A huge, squashy chair to sit in and read, but that was because every single space was filled with books, left to right and top to bottom.
I chose one book from the stacks and carried it home without even a bag: a green leather-bound collector’s edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It looks a little worn, but the gold embossing shines and the pages inside are still perfect.
And it’s okay that I only got one book; somehow I think we’ll be back there soon.