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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Books on the road

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Lynette Sowell

My front porch


In going through photos of my travels in the past several years, I’ve noticed a recurring theme I have. For some reason, whenever I see a bookstore, I’ll grab a picture of it.

Not a “big name” book store—you know the ones, and I don’t need to mention them because they get enough advertising.

But I when I come across an independent store, I usually take a picture of them. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s because they’re a dwindling breed, and I love them.

My favorite bookstore of all time was Johnson’s Bookstore in Springfield, Massachusetts, which opened in the late 1800s. The place closed its doors in 1998 after three generations of the Johnson family ran the store. Its top floor—the treasure trove—was one entire floor of used books.

The floor had an old book smell, if you know what I mean. It was the smell of secrets, of discoveries waiting to be found inside the thousands of books, some rare, some paperback novels a few years old.

A fun “score” is finding an early edition of Black Beauty which is still on my bookshelf today. Other scores were favorite books from childhood, obscure titles I thought I’d never see again.

After Johnson’s closed, the property was restored and is now multi-unit shopping. I’ve not been back there since moving to Texas in 1992, but sometimes I still think of Johnson’s and wonder if they were able to get the old book smell out of the top floor. Part of me hopes they couldn’t.

Several years ago, I went with my husband to Galveston, Texas for a conference. We stayed at the historic Tremont Hotel and our first night after supper, we went on a stroll throughout the historic downtown area, not far from The Strand.

I came across the Galveston Bookshop, open since 1991. It boasts 70,000 volumes of new and used books.

On another trip, we visited family in New England and I happen to take photos of bookstores I found.

When leaving the T station and walking to Boston Harbor, my husband and I passed Commonwealth Books at Downtown Crossing, the oldest street in the city, dating from 1630. They have 40,000+ books to browse through, along with prints from as far back as the 1600s. Wow!

A few days later, we went on a family outing to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and walked the downtown streets. This time, I only found a simple sign in the shape of an arrow marked “BOOKS, pointing to a side alley. I never discovered anything more about that place, but it was likely another little hole-in-the-wall of discovery.

Much closer to home, there’s Fredericksburg, Texas, and Books On Main, located on where else, Main Street? This store has lots of Texas books as well as maps and genealogy resources.

Even with this exciting digital age, when you can “carry” hundreds of books on a single electroinic device, there’s something to be said for used book stores and the unique atmosphere they carry.


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