I never really understood the term “bookshelf porn”. Sure, I get the concept. Orgasmic state of euphoria induced by photographs of artfully (and not so artfully) arranged rows of shelves crammed full of books of all shapes and sizes. I love books – love looking at pictures of books on shelves, but sadly, I’ve never had such an experience. I guess that makes me a bookshelf porn virgin?
I guess so.
I should probably preface the loss of my bookshelf porn virginity by putting it into some sort of context. Last week, I had an interesting conversation with my World Literature professor while waiting for yet another library tour to begin. I am a seasoned library veteran, so I don’t really know why I can’t just sign off on some legal document that says “I get how to use the databases, reference desk, and online book reserve. Really – I got this” and dedicate that hour and fifteen minutes of my life to something a little more meaningful, but, alas, it is not to be borne.
Dr. W. is an interesting woman – I’ve taken a class or two with her in the past. She’s older, compact, with a quick wit that would do my writing group proud. I usually try to avoid making small talk with my professors. I find it awkward for both of us. I’m not good at it and frankly, neither are they. Dr. W. is different. She sits with her students, engages them in frivolous conversation that tends to lead to more in-depth and often times, humorous discussions. I enjoy her very much and as such, she has become a frequent pawn in my “what if” game – without her explicit knowledge, of course, I value my A. I’ve decided she would make a great super secret spy, long retired – a mentor for a younger generation of super secret spies, teaching them the ways of the world with sage advice laced with sharp sarcasm. Think Hetty Lange meets Yoda.
Hm. What was I talking about? Oh yes…
It was in the midst of one of these such conversations – in the library while waiting for the coma inducing tour to begin – that she revealed to me her favorite book reseller. Her enthusiasm and description of the place piqued my curiosity, and when I awoke from my coma, I did a quick Google search. The bookstore she was referring to is called Recycled Books in Denton, Texas. They are located on the square. in what used to be an old opera house, across from the historical Denton County Courthouse. She told me, “You can’t miss it. It’s painted a lovely shade of lavender.”
Yesterday morning, on a whim, my husband, daughter, and I piled into the truck and took a little jaunt north. My husband, always one to make up his navigational plan as he goes along, took us on a pleasant journey through many of the small towns that lie between the house and our final destination, foregoing the more direct route via the interstate. It’s nice to be reminded that we are just a stone’s throw away from rural America. It would have been a prettier drive had all the vegetation not been dead and turning to dust, but we can’t have everything now, can we?
Dr. W. was right, of course, you can’t miss it – and we didn’t. Though, to be honest, I was expecting a more vibrant color, but the building’s exterior was indeed an interesting shade of lavender with slightly darker trim. She tells me the color was retaliation for the city’s heavy-handedness regarding the condition of the building’s previous paint job. The owner seems to be a rebel of sorts. I can respect that.
Upon entering the store, I had what I can only describe as a religious experience. I don’t have many of those, so I can’t be completely sure, but there was definitely something going on for a light shone down from the heavens and angels began to sing. When the roar in my head receded, my senses kicked in and I noticed the smell. My fellow WC-er Bill loves to remind us that it is the smell of molding and musty paper – he is a chemist – but I don’t care. I love the smell of molding books. It is an aroma that brings me peace and fills my cold heart with comforting warmth.
This place is not your typical Half Price Books and it’s certainly no Barnes and Noble – it is a mess. The carpet is filthy, the shelves are crudely made, the walls are covered with posters, drawings and other hodge-podge turned yellow with age, the books were utter chaos. Or so it seemed. It is true, there were books everywhere – stuffed in every nook and cranny, slipping onto the floor at every turn. But it was a kind of organized chaos. There was a method to the madness, I could see that. This hint of organization was likely the only reason my anti-clutter troll didn’t jump ship and flee.
The place itself was cavernous, 17,000 square feet in all. I began to slowly make my way from room to room, the battered floor protesting with my every step. It seemed never-ending. Upstairs and downstairs, row upon row, room after room there were books everywhere; and just when I thought I’d reached the end of the line, around the corner there would be something new. With so much to choose from, so many things to look at, it was hard to really get a feel for what real treasures the place holds. I am determined to try – no matter how many visits it takes.
This, of course, brings me back to bookshelf porn. I’m not one to take a lot of pictures. I usually forget to take any at all – I almost forgot to document the Coliseum in Rome. My bad. I was too busy taking it all in. But something about this place inspired me. I wanted to capture it so that I could take it with me, and hang on to it. I wanted to be able revisit and relive this feeling of ecstasy the shelves gave to me over and over again.
I took a page from the Book of Bill, whipped out my cell phone and started shooting.
Now, I have my own little stash of bookshelf porn. Wanna see?