Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Book Exchange

One thing I've always loved is a good used book store. There was a used bookstore I used to go in Fort Worth and there were a number of them in New York City I would haunt, although I've always felt like The Strand was a bit overrated.

What I really like is, of course, the smell of a used book store. It's sort of what Fred hates about old books. He won't even touch an old book. He won't read a book if anyone else has every read it, making libraries in Fred's world sort of...unnecessary.

In a used book store, there's also the chance of coming across some wonderful book that I've always wanted or a book by some author that I love for only a couple of bucks. I'm going to come out the closet here and say that I really love reading Anne Tyler. She's written so many wonderful books, but I think a lot of people unfortunately see her work as a little to easy or unsophisticated. I'm always sucked right in to the world she's created, usually in Baltimore, Maryland. The Accidental Tourist was the first one I read, and the I read Breathing Lessons, which I think I read twice. Both are completely engaging stories, as are the many others of hers that I've read. It's a nice, easy style. I would be very happy to write like that. No crazy symbolism and tricks, just really good stories. But I digress.

During my first year of living here in Amsterdam, I did volunteer work at a homeless drop-in center on Kloveniersburgwal, a beautiful canal in the Center. On my way home, I would pass by The Book Exchange and I would slow down to see what they had in the window. The little sign in the corner of the photograph says, "used english books," so you can't miss that it's an English book store. (They have books in other languages, certainly Dutch, but the bulk is English.) Back then, I had no job (and no work permit), but I would occasionally squeeze a few euros out of the grocery money to buy something that would take me somewhere where I really belonged (before I realized that I really belonged here.)

The entrance of the store is on the ground floor of the building. It's piled to the rafters with books and there are three floors, all amazingly well organized and clean. My favorite room is the one with used paperbacks. I always have a pile that I end up putting back and a smaller pile that I take home. I can't read as fast as I'd like. The owner is a very nice American guy who sits and talks about books, what's going on in the world and finally moving to a computerized system after thirty years.

If I'm ever on the run from Fred, you might find me hiding there. He wouldn't go in the front door. The whole place is like kryptonite to him. Hold a used book up in front of Fred and he reacts like Frankenstein's monster confronted with fire. He staggers back and groans. (I'll just throw out metaphores and see what sticks.)

It's a lovely photo, isn't it? It was a beautiful fall day when I took that picture. What you can't see is the stoners sitting outside the coffee shop next door.


Tammie Nolte said...

One man's trash...I love this bookstore too Andy. It gives you the feeling that you are the only one who noticed it or knows about it. Fred will see things differently when you bring home the first addition signed Harry Potter. Thanks for this memory. Now I know what to do the next time we hook up!

Mama Mojo said...

There are so many great used bookstores in Amsterdam. There's a great one in the "9 Straatjes." I think it might just say Antiquariaat in the window. The guy working there was writing his Ph.D in botany, and had done field work on some Island. I wish I could remember the name. I love wandering around Amsterdam, looking in used bookshops. It's great fun. In Rotterdam it's pretty much De Slegte, which can be good, but nothing beats wandering in and out of small used bookstores.

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