Plot twist (not): I love bookstores. Antiquated or contemporary, cavernous or petite; if it sells books, I will be a generous and enthusiastic patron. Even though my bookshelf is full and the stacks of unread books on my nightstand are towering, I continue to buy more and more and more. Let’s just face it: I’m a book hoarder, and the source of my addiction is my love of bookstores.
So when I came across Back Creek Books in Annapolis, Maryland, my family didn’t question me when I turned to them and yelled “books!” in the middle of a crowded street. What can I say, I just couldn’t contain my excitement for the small book shop, and they understood when I all-too-excitedly ran through the front door and began to peruse the stacks, inhaling the perfume of aging paper.
I felt completely at home in a foreign city as I browsed the little shop. How was it that, though I was hundreds of miles away from my native Charlotte, North Carolina, I could have plopped down among the shelves and read for hours on end like I do in my own home? I had never been there before and might never go there again, but I felt a strange comfort in that moment knowing that my favorite literary friends were right beside me. They were tangible in the oddest sense: though I could not hold their hands and run through their respective fictional domains alongside them, I could run my fingers over the bindings of their books and indulge in their stories.
I left the store with a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, but I have a confession to make: I already own a copy. My new book was only $6.00 and buying a second copy wasn’t going to put me into financial ruin, but I have other reasons for purchasing the paper copy, the primary one being that the copy I already have is digital.
I downloaded a digital version many moons ago in middle school when I forgot to check out a copy from my school’s library. I was in a crunch and needed a direct quote for an English assignment so I gave in and bought it online, which I try to not do. There’s something about the feel of paper, the way the ink bleeds a little if you run your fingertips over it enough. You can write in a paper book, make notes and underline the places you found intriguing. I think it makes the whole experience a little more personal, a little more engrossing.
When I plucked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn off the shelf, I immediately recognized it and reminded myself that I didn’t need to buy it, but I still felt compelled. I wanted to have that book on my shelf and remember the adorable shop in Annapolis where I purchased it; I wanted to remember the trip I took with my family when my eyes just happened to wander over it. I wanted to flip through the pages and underline the passages that stuck with me in middle school and stick with me now, to hold the story in my hands and let it transport me to a brownstone where I could grow up in Brooklyn just like Francie.
So, as we all now know, I bought the book. I stand by the $6.00 spent for a memory that will make me smile and a book that I will continue to love; it was money well spent.