An Ode to the Independent Bookstore

We spent a few days last week in Ohio with my oldest at college and had some unstructured free time. Of course we chose to spend it in bookstores. Monday, we visited Paragraphs Bookstore in Mount Vernon. Wednesday, we prowled the labyrinth of The Book Loft in Columbus.

Paragraphs Bookstore, Mount Vernon, OH

Paragraphs is a boutique-style bookstore, with a big sofa in the children’s section and a small but carefully curated collection and super-knowledgeable staff who were ready to help me find anything my heart desired. Light fills the space, and the chest-high bookshelves allowed lots of conversation back and forth across the store as we browsed and weighed the choices we’d have to pack into our luggage. Not knowing we would hit another bookstore forty-eight hours later, we stocked up on lots of YA fiction and some Toni Morrison.

The Book Loft Bookstore in Germantown, OH

The Book Loft is a rambling old house in Germantown with room after connecting room and days of books to explore. I lost myself in the politics and history section, and then found myself browsing a fantastic collection of puzzles, including my favorite Cityscape puzzles by Michael Storrings. Having filled our luggage two days previously, I didn’t end up buying a puzzle. Instead, I exerted all my willpower to limit myself to four five books I could fit in my backpack. My daughter asked for help finding a book she hasn’t been able to find at the last three bookstores we’d visited, and a willing guide led her to where it was shelved (in three separate rooms for its three categories.)

Exploring the labyrinth of The Book Loft

It was so marvelous to be surrounded by floor-to-ceiling shelves full of ideas and creativity and information. Sure I can find stuff online and my eReader is exceedingly convenient, but nothing replaces the act of browsing shelves and holding books in my hands. The opportunity to follow a rabbit trail along a shelf is such a privilege. I missed it desperately in 2020, and our return to brick-and-paper bookstores is a pleasure I don’t take lightly.


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