Wednesday, October 25, 2006


200th post!

I'm two hundred posts old today! Let's celebrate with some pictures of the bookshop! The shop is on a second floor in a brick building from 1911, with a white ceramic tile facade. This first one shows half of the great curved window in front, with part of the nature/science section showing, the mini orange tree (which has tiny green oranges on it right now), one of my Emeco aluminum chairs, the maple hardwood floors, and the view out the window to the street showing the dark red door to the local bagel place, which is justly famous in these parts:

Next, to the right of the big window, floor to ceiling (shelves are around nine feet high) contemporary fiction and classic literature (roughly divided up by living and/or dead writers, but often much more arbitrary than that), with room left at the bottom for the hot water baseboard heat, and just a bit of the white pressed tin ceiling showing:

Then further to the right, into the shop: some reference books, a view over the short wall towards the books-about-books, poetry, drama, music, and art sections, with some leatherbound sets on top, and more of the tin ceiling, which looks like wedding cakes:

Next, a closer-up view of anthologies, books-about-books, and poetry (the white shelving units were already built in when I arrived here, so I built more shelves on top of them - I favor light natural pine for my shelving, with one coat of clear urethane to seal):

The shop is sort of long and skinny. The above sections (and others) are all in the front room of the shop, my office area sits in the center in a glassed-in enclosure thing where the entrance is (again, here before I arrived), then my back rooms have more books, my painting studio, storage areas, facilities, and closets. Here's part of the history section in one back room:

The Wayward Books sign is from a great bookshop that used to be about an hour from here; the proprietor closed up last year when she and her partner semi-retired and moved away. I bought some books when she left, and several more pine bookcases, and she gave us the sign, which we took off the side of her shop building. She had a great shop, and a lot of people comment on it when they see the sign here. Also, the little printing press on the bottom left is one I use from time to time when I'm making miniature books (yes, I own metal type and a few presses, I had fullblown letterpress fever for many years - more on that someday).

So that's a brief shop tour. I'd say I have around five thousand books, though I haven't counted in a while. Mostly hardcovers, but many quality paperbacks too. No mass markets to speak of. I think the photos show around a third of the books I have. I'm a bit of a neat freak, so the shelves are usually tidy. I go around every other morning and straighten up, depending on how busy it's been. This week, not so busy. So, longer blog posts! Thanks, dear readers, it sure has been fun sharing the shop with you, both today and all year.

Thank you for pictures of the shop! All this time reading about it, now finally have an image in mind. Have to admit, not what I was expecting...I saw things as more cluttered, but this is even better. Great space.
Congrats to you on your 200th post and those photos of your bookstore have me mentally drooling!
Congratulations on your 200th post! I am blessed in being able to visit you and your lovely bookstore in person. You are an inspiration to me. Thank you!
Neat shop my dear, in all senses of the word. How unlike my own battered hovel.

Congrats on your 200th.
Aw shucks guys, I'm grinning like a fool today because of your sweet comments... When I moved into this space it was so far away from what I thought I wanted my dream-bookshop to be, but we took up the old carpet, excavated the great hardwood floors underneath, built shelves, got plants, and it started to feel homey but elegant - and when the books finally took up residence, well, let's all say it together: BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM! Nothing like 'em, really, to bring it all together. Someday I'll post a few pictures of my books at home.

Brian - I'm sure that as the years go by things will pile up, but I am going to work at keeping the shop open and airy. I used to work at a bookshop in a basement, and it wasn't good. Books want light and air as much as people do. Hope you are progressing toward your own store? Let me know how it goes.

Lady T, thanks for being a constant reader, what can I say. You are a queen in the blogosphere! Perhaps in real life too...?

Thanks Vicky - I count myself lucky to be able to talk to you both here AND at the shop. You're one of the only people I know who reads at least as much as I do, if not more.

Jonathan darling, I'll gladly hop over the pond and clean up stray piles of books for you if you find me a few select U.K. first editions...
What a beautiful, beautiful shop. I can spend an hour just looking at the pictures; I'd be lost in your stacks for days.

There were some decent used bookshops in Champaign-Urbana (Priceless Books in Urbana was better than Jane Addams Bookstore and Main Street Books in Champaign) and there are of course some great, sprawling used bookstores in Chicago, but I don't think I've been in one that seems to have the light yours does. It makes one want to browse, examine, then browse again. Wonderful.
uib - thanks for being another constant reader... I don't think you could browse here for days, I don't have that many books (really - most decent used bookshops have at least ten or twenty thousand books), but hours, surely. I try to have very good quality stock, though, to make up for having fewer books. Years of working in other people's shops taught me what quality stock is - you know, the GOOD books.
Very attractive environment sarahsbooks. The view from the window, by contrast, has a third-floor urban look to it (maybe my mistake), which would make you bookshop an island of repose in a businesslike, no-frills district. I'd love that cache.

I'm not a bookstore owner, but I work part-time in one. I've just starting blogging about this messy and failing spot, where the disorder is driving patrons, volunteers who watch the shop while the owner works a second job, PLUS the owner . . . where the total overstocking of titles no one will ever buy or read is driving ALL OF US toward early burnout or to other bookstores to buy!

Sorry, I do not exaggerate.

The owner is a very literate person. She tries to 'select' her titles. But she is also a pack rat. Situated in a workingclass neighborhood in Québec, our clients and their friends are constantly 'dumping' books on the bookstore. And she is keeping way more of the beat-up and the dis-interesting discards of others.

Soon, on my new blog, I will post photos of the result of the results of her practising the hoarding of printed matter.

Your attractive and comfortable arrangement for selling books is something rare in Québec. I won't go into the demographics of where there are one or two shops that approach the style of sarahsbooks. Perhaps the rents here are too high to provide such ambience in any locale other than the better off neighborhoods or Vieu Montréal. But I think there is more to it . . I think that booksellers suffer from a status and sense of being marginal unless they are serving an elite clientele.

Montreal is, however, moving toward making independent bookstore places of comfort and good taste. I guess I am uncomfortable working in what I consider a backward bookstore, where marginality and disorder for the Anglo workingclass is the mindset that prevails.

What you shop's images project for me is repose and comfort as well as a large selection for the public, not like an academic, campus venue nor like the antiquarian or the specialist dealer. I find your venue very appealing.

My young blog, Cheap Priceless Editions, is at
Hi blogaulaire, thanks for your kind comments re the shop appearance. Bangor has a funky brick downtown, nothing fancy, but not bad overall and definitely not yet gentrified, hence the rents are still quite low. This is one of the reasons I can afford to be in business. I doubt I could do what I do in a larger town or city (though who knows, probably my number of customers would rise to cover the extra rent). This is a great little building, but I did a lot of work to it to make it look good inside. Keeping things tidy goes a long way.

Re your current work situation - consider this an apprenticeship, take notes, then if you ever open your own shop you will know exactly what NOT to do. Like this: DO NOT stock junky books! Very important! They take shelf space away from the good books. Meanwhile, have pity on your poor boss, books do to tend to overwhelm their owners at one time or another...
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