When I travel, my go-to activity is to peruse a used or independent bookstore. I like going to independent bookstores for several reasons. First, the owner or the staff will talk about their love of books for hours, which is something I’m very comfortable doing as an introvert. I usually find a new friend by the time I leave. Second, each store is unique to its community. There are always events going on, even the book selection can reflect what that particular community reads. And third, I always walk away with a new book to read.
This year, we haven’t done much traveling. I feel like that is a common thread among a lot of people. But we did manage to go to Hot Springs, Arkansas this month to a lake house for a week. It was secluded enough for my anxiety, but there were still activities my family could do that were pretty socially distanced (like hiking and exploring nature).
Even the one day we ventured into downtown Hot Springs, we were still pretty careful. But as I was preparing for our trip, I learned a very sad truth. There are no independent bookstores in this town. So, I wasn’t expecting much that day, which led to a very pleasant surprise.
I only entered two shops. The first shop for a Christmas ornament commemorating our singular trip of the year. And the second a toy shop called The Toy Chest (because we had grandparents with us who wanted to spoil our kid just a bit). When I entered the toy shop, it was stacked with toys, but in one little corner were about six shelves of children’s books.
I spoke with the cashier who said that the shop had been open for over 20 years. In that time, the husband who, along with his wife, founded the store had been in charge of the book selection. He was a bookseller. When he started talking about the books, his love became infectious. Sadly, he passed away last year, but the family still lovingly chooses the books placed on those shelves.
The first book I purchased was Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights. I want to add cloth bound books to my collection and this one was beautiful. I’m not as familiar with the other tales from the Arabian Nights, so I look forward to reading all of them.
And the second book I purchased was Julie Andrew’s Treasury for All Seasons: Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year (yes, that Julie Andrews). I had been searching for poems and songs to share with my kid throughout the year. Some months had been quite difficult, so I’m excited to have this collection. Although, there are some holidays that have become problematic in more recent years (we will more than likely skip those poems), there are a lot of selections that are perfect to share.
Thanks to this toy shop, my tradition continues. I look forward to sharing these stories with my child as he grows up. As well as growing my collection to support independent bookstores and how important they are to their communities, as well as those who are just passing through.