Friends, let’s talk bookstores. We’ve done this before. There was the time when I studied abroad, and ignored things like the Famous Sights of Paris and Munich in favor of their tiny, English bookstores. Like this one.
And this one.
There’s also Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul, which I try to duck into whenever I can (admittedly, part of the draw is hope for a someday sighting of the man himself).
There’s Half Price Books, which, while somewhat lacking in that cozy bookstore charm, has filled most of my bookshelves because it’s so cheap.
But then there’s my very favorite bookstore, which I had the good fortune to visit last weekend. I’m only able to go about once a year, as it’s 3.5 hours away from my house, in tiny Washburn, Wisconsin. Might I introduce Chequamegon Books? (pronounced sheh-wah-meg-an)
Please note that were you to walk forward down the sidewalk and then turn left around the edge of the building, and were you to continue to walk straight after that, you would find yourself at the edge of Lake Superior after about ten minutes.
I love this bookshop most of all because it’s so familiar to me. I’ve been getting books here since I was young enough to promise my mother that should she purchase my pile for me, I would pay her back come next allowance. Chequamegon Books introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, to Betsy Tacy, to the Mary Poppins series.
Most recently, I found the entire His Dark Materials series–in near-new condition–for fifteen dollars. I nearly cheered as the owner was ringing them up, and then, having flippantly declared that I didn’t need a bag and could carry them out, saw that it was raining thick and fast. So, I did what every gleeful owner of a new set of reads would do: I stuck all three books under my shirt, eight months pregnant-style, and sprinted to the car.
It’s one of those bookstores that makes you feel intelligent as soon as you walk through the door. You don’t merely feel as if you’re among readers, but you feel as if you’re among readers who challenge themselves, who discuss what they read, who appreciate the smell of one part coffee one part dust one part yellowed pages as much as you. It’s not a snobbish place (they do stock the likes of Twilight, I noticed), but it’s a place that makes you want to dive into a classic novel, to scrawl notes in its margins.
Chequamegon Books stacks books horizontally. It embraces the crammed, the hour search before you unearth the book you’re destined to take home, the handwritten signs, the small wooden chairs placed randomly about should you need to rest while you comfortably browse the lower shelves.
There are also actual shelf ladders that actually roll across shelves.
I walked right under this ladder, forgoing all superstition. Shockingly, I haven’t sustained any major injuries since. It must be part of the magic of the bookstore.
Chequamegon Books is a peaceful, earthy place, and one of my favorites in the world.