I love reading with a passion and dedication that extends to few other areas of my life. And when it comes to books, I love nearly everything about them. Their cover art. The smell of a new book. Typesetting. The fucking story itself. The notes and scribbles that come in used copies of favorite novels. Finding typos (because I like to feel smarter than a publishing house every now and then). There’s something special about the physical object of a book, and while I often feel buyer’s remorse about clothes or kitchenware, I never regret purchasing something to read. So when you get a bunch of books together and offer to sell them to me, I have a hard time saying no.
Therefore, I can very happily spend a ridiculous number of hours in a bookstore. I’m the girl walking up and down the aisles with my head tilted to one side so I can read all the titles, or sitting in a corner for hours lost in my stack of books. I’m not ashamed. And aside from the pure fact that you can buy books at bookstores, there are many, many other reasons I love them so hard.
People in bookstores are a varied and fascinating group to watch. You’ve got the students who park themselves in the cafe with a big-ass coffee, a stack of books and their laptop. There are little kids who are SO EFFING EXCITED about a picture book that they make their mom or dad read it to them right in the store. The anti-socials, young and old; from teenage fantasy novel addicts to older-but-still-incredibly-awkward dudes who can’t quite look the employees in the eyes when they ask about the latest million-page sci-fi novel from their favorite author. The people who are so totally absorbed in a book that you could build a fort of display shelves around them and they wouldn’t notice until they looked up from the pages.
I don’t like to buy magazines, for the complicated reason that I cannot throw them away but know for a fact that I know I won’t ever use them again. They’re too much like books, and what if I want to reread that one article on DIY party supplies again someday? (I won’t.) Every now and then I let my freak flag fly and binge-read four or five at a bookstore, and it’s fantastic. It’s like eating an entire bag of Easter candy, but for my brain.
Stay with me on this one.
I have a (knowingly-nerdy and still totally unrealized) fantasy about meeting my future husband in a bookstore. We’ll both be wandering the aisles, arms full of new books, when we reach for the same title at once and our fingers meet. We look at each other. The books fall to the floor and we make wild, passionate love in the Biography section of Barnes and Noble. Or maybe he owns a tiny independent bookstore and while helping me find a certain anthology, lets his glasses fall and sees that I’m holding his favorite Roald Dahl book from childhood. He knows we are meant to be together and slips a note inside the book I buy asking me to meet him back there after closing. And I do. We ruin the shelf of Jane Austen novels. Or something.
One of these has to happen.
Lots of bookstores have resident pets. Dogs who show up every day with their owners, a cat who sleeps on the shelves. I find this totally charming. And I bet they’re all rescue animals, too.
There’s a little independent bookstore in Oakland, CA called Walden Pond Books. The wooden floors creak, it smells like musty used books and there are shitty handmade cards for sale from local artists. The owner is a slightly-curmudgeon-y guy who will only warm up to you once you show some enthusiasm for halfway decent literature. He also owns two of the biggest, chillest Malamutes in the world. They get tied together with a leash and left on their own to flop around the store and block the narrow aisles. There is nothing better than these dogs. I love Walden Pond Bookstore.
Featured photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk/Flickr