Guest post by Cheryl Lynn West
Treasure Hunts in Used Bookstores
I love used bookstores. The older the book, the more cluttered the store, the more it sends a thrill through me. Don’t get me wrong. Clean, organized shelves, digitally cataloged, recent best sellers with unbroken spines, are a delight. I grab the latest book club selection, minus one meeting, knowing I can join in future conversations with friends over a glass of wine.
Yet it is in that place where dust floats in sunbeams and the search for reading becomes a treasure hunt that I find my pleasure. There are no computer printouts, authors’ names sorted on a spreadsheet across the monitor’s screen. The clerk, with her pink hair and pierced tongue, ponders and gives the next clue. “Try the rack behind Stephen King and Florida travel guides.”
The shelves are organized by authors—mostly. Stacks grow like stalagmites upward when a writer exceeds her shelf space. Others cluster like school children on a playground, each type in its own pod, requiring a careful review to find the perfect title.
I quickly abandon these for the veritable treasures, buried in plastic and cardboard boxes, beneath the crowded tables above. I sit like a small child visiting a library for the first time, pulling random books out to see their covers and contents. Untouched journals, devoid of inscriptions, beg me to take them home and fill them with my thoughts. Phone books, the buggy whips of today’s cell phone world become a clever keeper of passwords, granting alphabetized sanity.
At last, I find the perfect gem, a book unneeded but cherished again. It will accompany me home, join me in quiet moments, no rush to read but instead to savor over the course of many days.
And when I am done, it may travel back to that dusty bookstore, patiently waiting for the next treasure hunter to claim it as the prize, the Holy Grail of written words.