Readers, I’m going to tell you a wonderful story. This is the story of a marvelous place, well, multiple places, because there were, and are, many of them, where other people’s discards became some of my DIKs.
So, storytime. I don’t actually remember my very first-first used book store (UBS) but I do remember, under the watchful eye of a friend of the family (I was a young teen at this point) making my selections from the young adult section (much smaller than it would be today, as YA was still extremely young at this point) and humor sections, but, all the while, making eyes at the section where I really wanted to browse: the land of historical romance.
To this day, I remember some of the covers I only got to see in passing, and I still kick myself over not picking up the historical romance with a gorgeous forest scene, a heroine with long, lush red hair, trousers, and a plaid flannel shirt, I kid you not, rolling a log. The hero had white or grey hair, and there was an age gap, and I should have picked up that book, but I did not. Regrets, people, they are real. I was an older teen at that time, and this was one of my first outings without adult supervision, so I could have purchased that book, but passed it by for a “safer” read, which did not end up working out that well for me, so lesson learned. Trust. Your. Reader. Gut.
Flash forward to my first year of college, and the joyous discovery that, a mere walk downhill (or mountain; this was Vermont, after all) there was a charming brick building tucked away in the winding streets of downtown, filled to the brim with romance novels of all descriptions. Other genres, as well, but I knew what I was there for, and I hung my “here be dragons” sign (metaphorically) on the traditional Regency shelves. I am still salty that there were only traditional Regencies, not traditional Tudors, medieval, or Edwardians, but I was a baby reader back then, who knew not of Georgette Heyer’s influence.
Reader, I hung out in that store. I hung out there a lot. Where many collegians have fond memories of a college bar, for me, it was cruising the romance aisles of that UBS, having long talks with the owner, and learning about the genre that became my lifelong love (I mean, so far, but things look good,) It was there I learned what worked for me, and what did not, where I brought the books that didn’t make it to keeper status, and squeal with delight when I found out someone else had turned in a book that made my heart skip.
Fast forward again, a few years later. I was a new bride, on a different coast, and not entirely sure how this whole adult thing was supposed to go, especially since there were times when I was the adult supervision. Thankfully, there was, not far away, you guessed it, a UBS. I hung out there, too, and soon had a ritual, of turning in the old books, filling my tote with new ones, and then heading to the frozen yogurt place next door, to sort the books into historical period order.
Fast forward again, to a few years after that, when I was working in a small chain bookstore. The owner of a UBS I loved and frequented not nearly enough, came in as a customer, and we got to chatting. I helped her with her quest for the day, and she said she wished she could hire me. I told her she could, part time, and thus began a phase when I held one of my all time dream jobs, and manned (womaned?) a UBS for one night a week. Yes, I got free books, and yes, I had the best time helping guests, and yes, I would do it again in a second. The owner did want me to buy her excess stock and set up a second location, myself, but I wasn’t in a place to make that happen, so I had to decline.
Fast forward yet again (last time) to today. No, I was not in a UBS today. There were, when we moved to our current city, two UBSs within driving distance. Both have closed since. I miss them. There is nothing in the world like walking the aisles of a store where all the books have histories of their own. Who bought them first? Why did they turn it in? What are they reading now? As much as I love my e-reader, the treasures found in a UBS will always have a special place in my heart. My husband used to say that he dreaded the day when I would see one of my own books in a UBS, but you know what? I think I’d be happy to see it. I’d be in good company. Maybe (who can say?) some reader would happen upon my book, pick it up, and a new love story could begin.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you have any tales of the UBS? Found a treasure there, or perhaps a best friend? Regret passing up any interesting prospects? Have any idea who that log-rolling heroine might have been? Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.