What Makes You Return to a Bookstore?

A few years ago my son played baseball at Western Carolina University. If you’re not familiar with that university, it is located in the picturesque mountain town of Cullowhee, North Carolina. It’s surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest, and not far from Cherokee.  Four towns make up the community surrounding the university: Cullowhee, Sylva, Dillsboro, and Balsam. Each has its own little quirkiness.

For instance, Dillsboro has the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which will take riders through the gorge.  It’s incredibly popular in the autumn when the leaves are turning colors. Balsam is just off the Blue Ridge Parkway–milepost 443–where it crosses Great Smoky Mountain Expressway. You’ll find a historic inn there, quaint B & B’s.

But Sylva is my favorite. After its 1996 revitalization, its Main Street Program has attracted many independent businesses, artisans, and craftsmen. Stores with old-fashioned window fronts displaying their chocolate treats, gelato, bakery items, leather, books, etc., flank the narrow street.  It was there, during the baseball tournament, that I discovered Friends of the Library Used Book Store.

With a group of boys in tow, seventeen year olds mind you, we sought a nice place for lunch. Having eaten, but with an hour or so to kill before the next round, I spied the book store and begged for a few minutes in which to peruse its offerings.  Yes, I still recall their absolute horror at being exposed to something linked to academia.  After all, it was summer and the last thing they wanted to do was read.

However, after calmly assuring them it wasn’t like chickenpox, it wasn’t contagious, and they wouldn’t leave with their traveling bags stuffed with history guides and murder mysteries instead of the bats and gloves with which they’d arrived, they acquiesced.  Besides, I was the designated driver and where we had dinner later that evening was in my hands.  Not that I used that to make my case, but boys typically prefer steak and potatoes to tofu and sprouts.  Just saying.

The attendant, an older man with graying hair and glasses and his nose buried in the book that hid his bad attempt at covering up his absolute humor at my negotiating, threw up a hand in greeting.  His chest still heaved and rocked as he tried not to laugh out loud.

The boys huddled behind a shelf, statue-stiff, afraid to be spied there, or possibly afraid that any sudden movement might land a copy of War and Peace in their hands.  I, however, found a full bag of bargain-priced hard-backed tomes that thrilled me, and gave me something new to read while we waited between games.  Sitting in the shade, surrounded by green fields and mountain peaks, the scents of pine, cedar, and leather conditioner filling the air, it was wonderful to bury my nose in a book and inhale its promises of adventure while awaiting my team’s turn at the field.

Last weekend, I found myself back in Sylva for a meeting.  Naturally, I wondered if the bookstore was still there and if it would be open during the hours I had available to me.  Finding it once again, I had another terrific experience, and relieved them of many choices upon their shelves.  The older gentleman wasn’t there, but a nice lady helped me locate a few special things after I’d made some spur-of-the-moment selections.  She even commented on my varied choices.

If you love books, re-love them.  Find a used bookstore and make it a favorite, as I have Friends of the Library Used Book Store.  Even if you have to negotiate with a nonreader. This time, I only had to bargain with my husband. *wink*

Renee Johnson is the author of Behind The MaskHerald AngelsAcquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.  She is currently working on a romantic-comedy, and a historical novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food.  She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.

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  1. The Violet Door is my favourite used book store in Bowmanville, Ontario. They’ve been know to make you a cup of tea while you peruse the shelves. I haven’t been in awhile but I think you have inspired a road trip.

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