Hello, and welcome!
On the second to last day of winter break, I took a spontaneous trip to the city with my family for a brief vacation. (Or for one last desperate breath of fresh air before diving back into school work, take your pick.) Anyhow, as we were gliding through downtown, which was still lit by glistening Christmas lights, my brother reminded us of a bookstore he stumbled upon the last time he was here. Being people of culture (and idiots for picking the coldest night of the year to explore outside), we headed for the bookstore as quickly as the slick sidewalks would allow.
The outside of the shop was quaint; a rustic little cart sat just outside the door, which held the discounted-discount books. Lying dead center on the stack was Vol. 2 of A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi, an author whom I’ve heard about as a renowned mangaka, but nothing more.
Now, this was an ancient USED book store, so I was expecting a lot of dusty old books from the previous century stacked onto decaying shelves. To find manga—and without even opening the door—this had to be a good sign. I took the manga and walked in. Immediately, I was consumed by the scent of antiquity and a touch of lemon from presumably some dust cleaner sprayed just a few hours prior.
I had been looking forward to this visit, even if just to look and not buy, so my memory of walking in is a bit hazy. But I was right about one thing: there were a LOT of books, though not necessarily old. Some of the titles that my eyes hurriedly skimmed were, to my recollection, hot off the press from a month or two ago. That surprised me.
Brown wooden shelves lined the walls of the small shop, many of these towering shelves jutting out in to the walkway so as to divide the room into a dozen mini sections, pocket universes of thought for each genre: adventure, mystery, romance, drama, classical, science fiction, young adult, self-help, non-fiction, fiction, and the like.
Numerous unique chairs of all shapes and sizes from wooden to wicker sat pleasantly within reach, as if you were invited in to pull any book to your liking off the shelf, grab a seat, and lose yourself within the pages. It was a colorful place thanks to the thousand upon thousand of beautiful book spines (which were neatly arranged on the shelves, by the way), and despite the dark brown interior of the store, hanging industrial lights from both the ceiling and the shelves themselves lit the chamber with a warm ember glow.
Simply, I was in love. If you’ve ever imagined a fantastical library with a layout not unlike a labyrinth, in that it felt quite easy to get lost in, this was the place.
They had simultaneously less and more manga than I expected; it was just two or three rows of books on these narrow two-foot-wide shelves. The shallowness of the shelf itself was a perfect look for the tiny collection, so I took mental notes about how to remodel my own room once I made or bought new shelves.
There wasn’t much there, yet I was still thrilled anyhow to skim through the used manga. When was the last time I came to a used book store? I thought to myself as I borrowed the nearby step-stool to reach the top shelf where the manga was humbly lined.
I just had to buy something, I remember convincing myself at the time, so I walked away with two others besides Taniguchi: Devil Survivor by Satoru Matsuba (story by Atlus) and Merman in My Tub by Itokichi, two volume ones that I was acquainted with by name. With both in good condition and certainly cheaper than using Amazon’s used services, I consider this small haul a steal. The young woman at the counter rang up the items, wrapped them in a brown paper sack, and we were on our way back through the cold.
This experience was special to me because it allowed me to reconnect with the charm of the bookstore environment itself. It was a magnificent little shop, and had I taken pictures, I definitely would have shared them with you all—I know you would’ve loved it.
In this digital age of online shopping and even browsing for digital books, I had temporarily lost that joyous feeling of walking out of a physical store, haul in hand. It’s not revolutionary thought; I just went into a bookstore and bought books, but even still, it makes me happy.
If ever you are offered the chance to peruse the shelves of a new or used bookstore—even if your goals in mind are larger than what the store offers—consider closing out of that internet tab for a reconnection with the physical and inviting yourself to the rustic charm of a dusty bookshelf. Trust me, you won’t regret your stay.
It’s always pleasing to use something for its specific purpose. — Mrs. Crocombe, a Victorian Chef at Audley End House
Now, I ask you: when was the last time you went to a used bookstore? What were you looking for at the time, and did they have it or not? For me, it had clearly been way too long, and I’m so glad I was able to spend the final days of my break absorbing pages and panels of so, so many books. I’d love to hear your personal stories if you’re willing to share! I suppose I’ll be off to reorganize my own manga collection, so until next time, this has been
– Takuto, your host