Day 35: Visit Bookman’s Alley

October 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Bookman’s Alley is a little used bookstore plucked straight from the pages of a novel. Literally, it is – it appeared as a setting in the 2003 New York Times Best Seller The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey  Niffenegger. The story takes place in Chicago, and is a great read; I highly recommend it. Here is an excerpt I retrieved from Google books:

I actually met the bookseller, Roger, there at the store. He is 82 years old and very soft spoken. I went to Bookman’s Alley to do a feature story, but Roger was so quiet that it was a really difficult interview. I think his best quote was “you’re never alone if you have a book,” which sounds like it should be put on a bookmark or a poster in a library.

The shop has all sorts of interesting artifacts. A display of Frank L. Baum books has The Wishing Horse of Oz priced at $1,400.  Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is listed for the same on a nearby shelf. One shelf up, a 1934 edition of Adolf Hitler’s infamous Mein Kampf is priced at $400. Further back, dimly lit cases display more treasures, such as a first edition copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned and an 1892 issue of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

More fascinating than even the books is the vast array of historical relics. A leather horse’s saddle stands before the western history section, and a leather Northwestern University football helmet containing the severed head of a stuffed cat sits within the sports section. In the back room is an antique printing press, and vintage posters and sketches adorn every wall. It is as if in the store time is ambiguous.

Overall, it was a really charming place to go, and was so dramatically different  from Barnes and Noble and Borders. I don’t know if I can go so far as to say it beats Powell’s – it’s just a very different experience.



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