Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happiness Is... A Used Bookstore

My husband and I spent Memorial Day weekend doing a lot of traveling. I try to get down to visit my family in Florida at least once a year, and we squeezed in what we could over a four-day weekend: grandparents, parents, meeting one friend's new baby, going to a shower for one due soon, and, of course, shopping. Halfway between my grandparents' house and my father's condo is a small town called Micanopy, and nestled under the mossy trees that shade the single block-long street that makes up the shopping district is a dusty little bookstore that's been there as long as I can remember. O. Brisky Books (read more here) has been my favorite store out of all the antiques and curiosities shops in the sleepy little town, even more than the ice cream shop across the street from it. When there's time for us to take a break on the road, I always try to stop in and browse the shelves for something interesting, and the store always provides. Obscure topics perfect for gifts, old, well-loved tomes waiting for a new bookcase to belong on, or just something that catches my attention on the shelf, I always find something to leave with. The books are vaguely organized by type in the cramped shelves (are you interested in Nautical books, or something on Photography? If you're looking for book on Russia or Poland, you just have to look at the well-labeled walls of the two-room store), and there's barely any room for anything new to fit between them. And every time, the same old man is behind the counter chatting with other customers, or putting books on the shelves, or answering question on the antique phone in an antique phonebooth that he uses for the store's primary form of contact. He doesn't even take credit cards: cash or check only, and he writes every purchase down on a notepad instead of a computerized system. Walking into this store is an instant trip into a long-forgotten past. It's every scent and sight and sound a used bookstore should be, and it's intoxicating. 

Not far from my dad's condo is a used bookstore that's the complete opposite of O. Brisky Books, Best Used Books. It's bright and modern, stuffed to the gills with books sorted in alphabetical order by author as well as DVDs, CDs, VHSs, board games and puzzles, anything really, but mostly books. Enormous sections of familiar genres, almost all modern and gently loved cover the store. The average age of the books there is probably younger than me, or around my age at the very least, as are the employees. And you know, I love it just as much as O. Brisky. They're two completely different stores, there may not even be a matching book between them, but they are equally delightful, with employees we can stay and chat with for hours, talking about nothing but books.

Up here where I live, I don't know of any local used book stores anymore. We had one in our local mall, but the last time we went, it had closed down along with half the other stores in there. It's a shame. Barnes and Nobles and Books-a-Millions are nice, but there's not much surprise there, nothing like a used bookstore. Entering a used bookstore is a mystery in and of itself. You don't know what you'll find, what you'll take home, if you'll find a new favorite author or a hidden autograph or an inspirational message to a friend or loved one between the pages. There's a beauty and inherent happiness in a used bookstore no matter the look or feel of the place. As long as it's filled with books that have been loved and enjoyed, that each have their own special history, it's all right in my book.

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