What constitutes a glorious morning?
I have a friend who likes to frolic in the South African surf.
Which may dampen your enthusiasm for my glorious morning. It’s hard for a Midwestern girl to beat frolicking in the South African surf.
So lower the bar really, REALLY far, OK?
Roughly 35 to 40 miles west of Chicago, in the quaint town of St. Charles, you’ll find a little gem by the name of Town House Books. Are you picturing a cluttered, cottage environment with lots of nooks and crannies? You’re on the right track.
You can look for hipsters here, but you won’t find them. No black turtlenecks with Doc Martens and an attitude.
Instead, you’ll find a small crew of ladies working the bookstore. A slightly larger crew of younger, more agile folks working the café.
At the small bar, a couple is getting the recipe for the absolutely-from-scratch apple raspberry crisp they’re enjoying. Inside the small dining room, another couple enjoys the last remnants of brunch.
You’ll see a lot of jeans. Boots. Flannel. Along with bright, intelligent eyes, decent conversation and the air of a lazy Sunday morning—cares left at the door.
As you walk through the bookstore, room leads to room in a maze that dead-ends eventually. Handwritten cards denote staff favorites. The floors creak. The alphabetization is iffy, at best. Too many browsers who re-shelve tomes willy nilly. You could easily find Einstein next to Gladwell. And it’s delightful.
Which is far from annoying. Because of course you don’t go to Townhouse books to find a specific book. No, silly. You go to treasure hunt.
You do what is impossible in the large, sterile atmosphere of a chain bookstore. You browse titles, book jackets, the panoply of choices. Never once have I willingly touched the Science section of a large bookstore, but at Town House, I happily peruse. It feels as if you’re in a favorite uncle’s study with the keys to the kingdom in your pocket.
And this favorite uncle (in the form of a crew of slightly middle-aged women), has curated an incredible collection for you. Books you didn’t even know you wanted to read are jumping off the shelves into your arms. “Plato at the Googleplex”? Sure. “Buddha Walks Into a Bar”? Absolutely. On a lighter note, “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother” makes its way into your armful. And you think you’ll start reading tonight with “The Accidental Universe”.
The beauty of this little book nook is the love and care that go into it. Just as the egg salad is, of course, made from scratch, the books are chosen by individuals. Not by a company that wants to please a large publishing house with a front-of-the-store display. By people who just love to read. Book nerds.
So the selection is current and cutting edge, even if the venue is not. But, you can also find the classics you never got around to reading, the notecard for your sister’s birthday, the journal you’ve been meaning to keep.
I know I may sound like a dinosaur, as the Town House Books of the world disappear in the Amazon vortex. And I love the ease of Amazon ordering and prices. But, Amazon doesn’t feed my soul. In Amazon’s virtual world, I can’t browse, buy and sit with my homemade apple/raspberry crisp while the young waiter asks about the book I’ve chosen. I can’t take a walk by the nearby river and think about what I just read and the waiters’ comments regarding his favorite novel.
Or, as comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it: “A bookstore is one of the many pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.”
Find your own Town House Books. Be a regular. They’ll call you by name. That familiarity means you may even get the recipe for their famous apple/raspberry crisp.
Oh yeah. And you’ll undoubtedly find some very good books.