Shakespeare with a side of apple crisp

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?

I’ll see those low expectations and meet them—with a morning at a local indie bookstore/café.THB

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.

handwritten recAs 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.

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20 Comments Add yours

  1. wiseblooding says:

    The picture naturally drew me in, but your description makes me want to hop in the car to be there for morning coffee and apple crisp! It sounds like the kind of place I could stay ALL day and still be reluctant to leave. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I used to own a small bookstore. I had to close it during my divorce from my first marriage in order to have more time with my kids. My friends still talk fondly about that store today. I often think about opening another. Your post makes me think about it even more. Peace and Blessings

    1. candidkay says:

      You’re not the first to mention that dream:) And sounds like you made it come true once already. I hope more people do the same. A certain kind of magic in the right place.

  3. Tom M. says:

    This is one of my favorite places ever. Downtown St, Charles is great place to visit if you’ve never been.

  4. andmorefood says:

    so much like the place I recently posted! I can barely think of anything better than good food and books in the same place.

    bookstores may be evidence of thinking, but the lack of people in them probably tell us about the dearth of such activity.

    I love bookstores, though I’m probably the sort of customer they don’t love – I like spending hours in there pouring over tomes, and maybe only buying one book (if ever, since I speed read) at the end of it. we’re at a point in Singapore where we barely have bookstores around, and I truly wonder if my kids will ever experience the same joy.

    1. candidkay says:

      I see an opportunity for a busy mom:). . . .

  5. For about eighteen months after I was received my kindle. However, of late I have started going back to those book stores….. Love it 🙂

  6. ygabriel says:

    My sister used to live in St. Charles, wish I had known about this store! Our fantasy was always to open a bookstore together.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think you should still open one in your town:). Every town needs one! And so few now have them . . .

  7. I wish we had a Town House books! You’ve conjured up such a wonderful picture of this haven with your words that for a short time, I felt I was there.

  8. suemclaren24 says:

    Love this tribute to small book stores, and “shared” on my Facebook page. Our local haunt, the Chester County Book & Music Company, closed last year, but they said they wanted to re-open, and I hear that they have! A dear friend and I meet every Sunday, weather permitting, for “church”, which for us is a Barnes and Noble where we can get coffee, something to eat, sit and talk for a couple of hours. We usually leave with a book as well.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Sue, for the share! I hope your local reopens–B&N is a next best thing, but just not the same!

  9. Ah…yes! I love book stores like this. In fact, if I didn’t do what I do now, my other dream job would be to own a small bookstore (even a second-hand book store). I’ve fantasised about that more than once in my life. My neighbourhood has a great little bookshop, which only stocks Australian books. I know that might sound limiting, but it’s a great niche for them in the world of Amazon. And they have lots of local authors doing book launches and talks. Wonderful.

    1. candidkay says:

      Love to hear that these types of places still exist. There’s a certain magic in them:).

  10. lmarieallen says:

    Give me a great bookstore over South African surf any day! I’d much rather feed my soul than be food for a great white.

    1. candidkay says:

      I wondered the same thing:). She said they have shark nets in certain spots but still wouldn’t be enough to convince me a hungry one wouldn’t find me . . .

      1. lmarieallen says:

        Shark nets..ha! I’m sure they’re shaking in their fins!

  11. ksawrites says:

    Ahhhhh! St. Charles is a very reasonable drive for us! And to quote Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.” (Thank you for sharing this gem, Kay!)

    1. candidkay says:

      So glad you can get there! You won’t regret it:). Sunday brunch is great . . . enjoy!

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