A bookstore is a bookstore, some people claim. We don't hesitate to go to the cathedral of Barnes and Noble or the chapel of Books A Million. Bright lights and wide aisles, books of all shapes, sizes and colors. Shelves of videos, compact discs and Blue Rays, bundles of slick magazines. Classical music and cappuccinos. Sit and stay a while, read a novel while sipping at a Starbucks latte. Clean and convenient, you can find any book, anywhere, in minutes.
Efficiency is good thing in our modern world. It's a comfort to be able to find the latest novel waiting for us there, to be picked up. Or the next month's issue of "Cosmopolitan" or "Plane and Pilot". When you enter one of these mazes, you think, "Where do I begin?" There are more choices, more decisions, more options, more money to spend.
I enjoy going to the megastores. I also enjoy going to the smaller, independent bookstores. If the megastores are the cathedrals of bookdom, then these shops are shrines, unique stops for the pilgrim on literary quests. When I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, I loved the various book places near the University of Virginia and on the Downtown Mall. I met a good friend, Barbara, while she worked at the Book Cellar.
As the name implied, it was located in the basement of the Hardware Store Restaurant. I became a regular, talking with Barbara behind the counter. Barbara lived alone with her 9 cats, but she loved books as much as I did.
Other bookstores included "Oakley's Used Book Store" and "Read it Again, Sam". The majority of those books involved Virginia history and geneology, but I could find Stephen King's books among Amy Tan's, Henry Thoreau's with Anne Rice's, all for bargain prices. I found out-of-print and special items that I could never find at a large retailer. The proprietors of these shops knew me by sight and we'd chat about all things while I paid for my treasures.
My favorite one was Heartwood, located in an alley across the University, right across Jefferson Park Avenue. There were narrow aisles with books stacked like soldiers and squeezed into rows on the floor. This made it hard to navigate, but Heartwood smelled like paper and ink. I found a German version of Don Quixote published in 1820 and a collection of Poe tales from 1900. Who knew what you could find?
When I moved to Charlotte, I lamented the lack of independent bookstores. Living in Thomas Jefferson's Village certainly spoiled me, but I didn't waste time finding one. The Used Book Stores at the corner of Plaza and Central is currently high on the favorites list. A huge attraction is the bargain shelves with $1.00 books,
Each little store has its own quaint charm, each has its atmosphere. Some, like Heartwood, smells like ancient tomes. Others convey a folksy charm that puts you at ease. Stay, read a while, no cappuccino required.
All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010