For those who know me (and for those who don’t). I have a love for travel. A giant wanderlust, a wanderer and a bit of a gypsy soul. So when it comes to bookshops, I always do my best to find the truly amazing, sometimes off the beaten path, perhaps slightly unknown (to the untrained seeker), independently unique bookshops. While I love ALL bookshops including the largely popular big box beauties, it’s the smaller indies I feel contain some sort of magic and wisdom.
Each one tends to have its own subtle, sometimes quirky, always perfect inimitable character. They also seem to have just the right people working there. And if you’re really lucky, it’ll be the owner who will be manning or WOmanning the shop.
If you have been to any of these (or if you haven’t) you may know what I’m talking about. The instant smell of old/vintage books (admittedly a book sniffer), sometimes creaky floors, floor to ceiling shelves, infinite aisles and sometimes stacks upon stacks on the floor. Perhaps there are different rooms and even multiple floors of exploring. All filled with books and authors of all genres and ages. It’s like being instantly transported into another world. THIS is my happy place. A place to spend hours when you might only have minutes, and there is never enough time to see it all. EVER.
There are many of these places I have been to and certainly need to revisit as soon as I can. That said, there are also those times when you come across the unexpected. I recently happened across one of these times. I somehow found a shop online and reached out via email as I noticed it stated they were open by appointment only. I didn’t want them to go through the trouble of opening just for me to come browse so I inquired to find out if they ever have times open for public browsing. I received a near immediate response stating it was no trouble at all and to come any time. Well….I was about a half hour away and asked if it would be OK to come within the hour. He stated that was just fine so I was on my way heading in the direction of my GPS.
When my GPS lead me to a beautifully lovely residential home I thought clearly I had the wrong address and immediately called. The gentleman answered and I asked if I had the wrong address as I was at a residence. He said, no, I was in the correct place which is why he usually takes appointment only visiting. I mentioned to him that I was there and he kindly said he’d be at the door.
Now… being a reader and at times a thriller reader and also being a young(ish) woman, all possible scenarios (not with the best of endings) enter into my head.
- Am I actually going to enter this man’s house?
- How do I get myself into these situations?
- Crap! Why is this the only time I don’t have my mace on me?!
- No one even knows I even came here.
- My mother would probably kill me herself, knowing the situation.
- Well… it is too late now to turn back, I’ve already told him I was here.
- I really hope he’s got some great books!
Thankfully the last of those statements turned out to be true. He greets me at the door and I walk in, I apologize again as I didn’t realize it was his home. He again said it was no problem at all. As soon as I walked in the door to my immediate right he had a large living room with wall length bookshelves housing the most beautiful books. He mentioned everything was for sale and offered me some coffee or water while I browse. (Still paranoid I politely declined). I tend to get overwhelmed when there is so much to look at and this was overwhelming. The collection was stunning and he mentioned a nearby warehouse with at least 60k more books and most of his business is done online so if I didn’t see something I was looking for, chances are he could get it for me.
I asked about a particular genre and he said he may have a certain book that was good. Checked his computer and said the book was upstairs. (I stayed downstairs of course) He brought it down for me and at that time I had to ask how much. He said $7. A reasonable price considering the book I just picked up was a bargain for $1500!!! (gulp)
He then showed me to another set of shelves that I started to browse, all the while chatting, we found out that we have the same Alma Mater (with about a 40 year difference) but was still fun to talk about. As we were talking I happened to notice some treasures in totes he had on the floor. I started to poke through them he mentioned everything in those totes was $1 a piece. I thought, OK… NOW we’re talking! There were SO many incredible books I was in heaven digging through the fun.
As my typical bookshop browsing goes, I walk in with no intention to buy and (this time) walk out with 7 new books, totaling $25. My justification being 5 of them were $1 and a couple were purchased as gifts. All in all a complete success, AND I live to tell the story and told him I will be visiting again.
I suppose certain sayings hold true. Always expect the unexpected and always expect something wonderful will happen.