Browsing for Books

As a lifelong bookworm, I am always on the lookout for a quality local bookstore, the kind where you can smell the generations who have thumbed through the pages of the treasures on the shelves. It’s a dusky smell, but not overpowering or unpleasant. It speaks of adventure, discovery, and imagination. It instantly transports you to the worlds of your youth – Narnia, secret gardens, a giant peach, Middle Earth, and the deliciously sinister calls of a raven.

Every bookstore I encounter, whether it sells new or used books, I immediately judge by this journey of the senses. For me, the ultimate holy grail resides in my hometown Portland, Oregon – Powell’s Used and New Books. The store itself takes up an entire city block in downtown Portland, and to ease navigation of the labyrinth of stairs and rooms, each room is color-coded. They even provide a handy map.

As a child, Dad would take us on weekend pilgrimages into town to spend the entire day lost in the stacks of Powell’s. My favorite room was the Gold Room – the floor space alone is the size of a typical Barnes and Noble – and I would lose myself in the history, travel, and culture sections. (I believe the travel section has since moved into the adjoining room.) Once we had loaded up our arms with a stack of books, we would retire to the bookstore’s cafe for coffee and to share our new treasures. To this day, whenever I’m visiting my parents, I hop onto the local light rail and find myself back in the midst of my personal reading mecca.

Now that I have settled in Appleton, Wisconsin, I am searching for a quality bookstore to quench my thirst for books. I had come to rely on Conkey’s, a bookstore located right on Appleton’s main drag College Avenue and open since 1896. While the selection was modest, the books were chosen with care, and I always left with a gem or two to add to my collection. Tragically, due to the economy, Conkey’s is in the process of closing its doors. On Friday I browsed the shelves for the last time, taking advantage of the 50% off clearance, but feeling guilty for doing so.

So without Conkey’s, what bookstore will fill its shoes and provide a counterbalance to the corporate commerciality and conformity of Barnes and Noble? Where will I be met with a whiff of ages of learning and discovery? I think I’ve found a candidate.

A couple months ago, my friend Natalie and I discovered a new bookstore in town, called Half Price Books, located on Casaloma Drive out by the Fox River Mall. While technically it’s a chain store, Half Price Books is a chain store with soul!The shelves are large and towering, looming with their masses of age-old wisdom. Gems are nestled among the standard fare, and the aroma of dusty, well-loved books pervades every nook and cranny. The books are a mix of used and new, and the prices are truly half-price for the new books. On my last visit I found a brand-new hardcover book for $7.00, the same book I spotted elsewhere for $24.95. Even better than the atmosphere and the prices are the knowledgeable staff who know and love books, and can direct you to what you’re looking for. In short, I will definitely be back to my own little piece of Appleton book heaven.


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
This entry was posted in Local Tourism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Browsing for Books

  1. Lily says:

    I’m surprised that Conkey’s lasted this long- I thought it had already closed. Will there be another LU bookstore, maybe in the new campus center? Interesting.

    I love Half Price Books! There are several of them around the Seattle area, and each has its own flair. The interesting part is that they’re likely to have books based on the local population- so from neighborhood to neighborhood it’ll differ. Half Price Books was my bookstore mecca growing up, so it’s good to hear there’s one in Appleton now 🙂

    • chronictraveler says:

      Conkey’s lost their contract with Fox Valley Tech to supply their textbooks, so that was a huge financial blow to them…they’ve lasted about 4 months beyond that. I would suspect LU will have textbooks in the store in the campus center.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s