The Rare Joys of Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

In a world of online purchases, a real brick-and-mortar bookstore is a refreshing throwback, especially for those of us who like to inspect a thing before we buy it. Don’t get me wrong. I do order some items online (actually, I hate messing with it and ask my very obliging husband to do it for me), but it’s nice to go “old school” once in a while. I’ve heard that Goodreads is a useful website, but at this point in my life, I have time to do what I prefer: go out and discover books for myself. I like wandering around the stacks in the library, randomly picking out books because they have interesting titles or especially pretty pictures on the dust jackets. If I end up not liking some of them, they go into the “yuck” pile to be returned, sometimes unfinished.

I must be more selective at bookstores, since I don’t want to spend money on something I will find unsatisfactory. Even so, it is a joy to peruse, pick up, and examine beautiful volumes before I purchase. It’s fun to chat with the booksellers. They are often as pleased as I am when I find something worthwhile.

Used bookstores are also delightful, if they are not too musty and dusty. There, I peer at almost unreadable titles on faded cloth or leather spines, carefully extracting the books from overcrowded shelves to see what treasures might be found within their pages. I’m always on the lookout for certain titles and authors, like Neill C. Wilson’s The Nine Brides and Granny Hite. It sounds like a real barn burner, doesn’t it? Years ago, I borrowed it from the library, enjoyed it immensely, and returned it like a good citizen. Someone else was not a good citizen, though. Later, when I wanted to read it again, it was nowhere to be found. My dear husband hunted down a copy for me online, way back when the internet was young. Since then, I have found one or two copies in a bookstore or an antique shop.

You may ask, “Why must you have more than one copy?” I love to share my favorite books with others, and too often I have said, “Now where did that book go?” I remember the book very well. I just can’t remember to whom I lent it, and I want to read it again for the umpteenth time.

The Nine Brides is a favorite of my daughter’s as well. She had a Read Aloud birthday party (I didn’t know that was done, but I’m glad it is), and now several others have enjoyed it and even found their own copies. I sent a copy to my sister so she would have something lovely to read during her chemo treatments. She tracked down another copy to donate to the cancer center.

We also have multiple copies of some Nevil Shute titles, including Pastoral and Trustee from the Toolroom. His books are easily found online since some of them are still in print, but many people have never heard of him, so I am happy to introduce them to another great author. I love the thrill of finding a really good old book.

Finding a really good new book is also thrilling. I found an excellent one at a place called Green Valley Book Fair. It sounds like an itinerant carnival that just happens to sell books instead of rides. Actually, it’s a great big warehouse, in which thousands of books lie waiting to be perused and purchased by happy customers.

I say “happy” because it’s large, well organized, and clean, and also because it’s full of all different kinds of books. Are you fond of John Donne’s poetry? It’s there. Are you interested in the Keto lifestyle? You can buy at least ten different keto cookbooks to change your life. There are gardening books, mysteries, classics, and a host of other genres. Children’s books fill up quite a large portion of the space, and there is a teacher’s area with classroom decor, workbooks, and the like.

I also say “happy” because you don’t end up with a pain in your neck from holding your head sideways to read titles. Books are displayed front-forward on shelves or stacked in neat piles on long tables. You can quickly scan the books with your eyes, or just as easily pick them up and flip through them. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you notice a staircase leading to a spacious, well-lighted basement with many, many more books.

When we lived in Michigan, we discovered an antique mall in Grand Rapids with a bookstore inside. More precisely, somebody’s booth in the mall had a large collection of theological books for sale; I think it was the library of a fine pastor who had since passed. They were well used and well worth reading. Several of those books came home with us, and we still have them.

You won’t find a pastor’s theological collection at Green Valley, at least, not that I’ve seen. They sell new books or new printings of old books. There are a wide variety of authors in the Christian category, from Albert Mahler to Joel Osteen, and it might just be several copies of a single title by one particular author. Because it’s a discount store, they may not have what you are looking for. You will likely find something else, though, that you didn’t know you wanted.

The book I would recommend to any reader is The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon. I didn’t know it was a bestseller when I bought it, but I can see why it is. After reading it, I went back to Green Valley and purchased several more copies to give to young families who are dear to me. This is one happy customer. I highly recommend Gurdon’s book, along with the brick-and-mortar store where I found it.

Author: Rose Peterson

Rose Peterson is a wife, mom, and grandmother who starts big projects in the house and yard. She finds out that she is older and weaker than she thought, and therefore she sits down to read a book. She writes for the pleasure of it.

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