Bit o’ Honey ~ the little things that please

The little things that please . . .

Ode to the Bookshop

with 4 comments

Since I won’t be getting to the Pyramids of Egypt anytime soon, I thought I’d pay tribute to a more local manmade wonder that excites the imagination in equal measure – the good old-fashioned, home-grown, used bookshop.  Yes Books in Portland, Maine is a favorite.  Situated at a busy corner of upper Congress Street, between a neighborhood sandwich shop and Paul’s Food Center, and standing directly across from a Starbucks, its very location speaks of its precarious place in the American story.      


Ah, Yes!


This time of year its door is propped open, most likely to catch a breeze . . . but I wonder, is there a purer symbol of democracy than this?  Inside is calm and hushed.  The stacks are disheveled.  The lightning is bad.   The aisles are narrow and cramped.  A small shop, I can easily feel lost inside.  Its homey disarray makes me want to plant myself on the floor and start reading from the nearest pile.  Yes Books is my piece of heaven.  The perfect respite from ordinary life. 


Where to begin?


This is my grandparent’s attic, my mother’s hope chest, the abandoned house we raided as kids.   A place suspended in time.  A place of ghosts, filling my head with voices other than my own.  I want to stay here all day, scaling the shelves for that overlooked gem that will change my life forever.  I want fall asleep here, wake up the next morning and start all over again.  


What’s this?


I never knew North America had its own arithmetic!




 My math skills might’ve flourished if I’d had this book in school.  


I fall in love a hundred times in the bookstore.  


What is it like to be a bird?


But I’ve learned not to grow too attached to every book I meet.  Some are meant simply to be admired.  Only a few get to travel home with me.  


Think I’ll pass on this one.



This has possibilities.


Since 1987 the National Trust of Historic Places has been listing its eleven most endangered places in America each year.  The Lower East Side, Cannery Row, Mesa Verde, even Route 66 Motels are listed.  I vote to put the independent used bookshop on that list.  And while I’m at it, to those noble independent bookstore owners everywhere, keeper of treasures, defenders of intellectual diversity, openers of doors – thank you from the bottom of my heart.





Written by Janie

July 12, 2008 at 10:59 am

4 Responses

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  1. Fabulous post on the dying bookstore, a sermon I preach every day!! I plan to highlight your post and pictorial on my review blog.



    July 12, 2008 at 10:25 pm

  2. That place looks great! It makes me really sad how independent bookstores are closing. We had a great used book store here in Davis called Bogey’s, but it closed down this past winter. I went in there several times over their last weeks, when everything was really on sale. Each time, things looked a little more disheveled and empty, and it was more crowded with people as bargain hunters bought up everything– if even a fraction of these people had shopped there before they started their going out of business sale, Bogey’s would have been able to stay in business. It was really depressing. Not that I can talk too much– my book budget is very small– I’m a big patron of the public library!


    July 13, 2008 at 7:36 am

  3. Yes, sadly my book budget is limited too. Which is why I’m more a browser than a buyer at the bookstore. But occasionally I break do break down . . .

    Bit o' Honey

    July 14, 2008 at 8:08 am

  4. Even our own independent stores look too clean, too much like emphasis on beauty and placement of furniture is more important. And when they have a coffee shop–that takes away from the books themselves. I’d prefer your own to either of t hese here in my hometown. Your heralding these interesting stores gives food for thought.


    July 16, 2008 at 9:57 pm

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