Science has told us time and time again that scent plays a role in human attraction. The scent of books, a topic which has also been widely discussed by humans, naturally becomes amplified when you’re in a store full of them.
Furthermore, each bookstore, I’d argue, contains a slightly different smell. Walk into a Barnes & Noble, and compare that with the musk of one of those tiny bookshops with a giant ladder that somehow hasn’t caused any deaths. Get familiar with a bookshop, and get familiar with the scent. Soon enough, it’ll start to smell like home.
2. Navigate The Labyrinth
Bookstores have the same allure of discovery as small vacation towns.
When you first arrive, you might find yourself falling in love with the aesthetically engaging main streets and semi-secret side avenues. At this point you’re scoping out the territory, enamored with how wonderfully put together the whole thing is. By day two or three — as you get more and more comfortable with your surroundings — you’re able to take great pride in navigating yourself around the place.
Knowing where things are in a bookstore — and appreciating the feel and tone of its setup — is arguably comparable to the last day of that vacation; when you feel like somewhat of a local, and sort of wish you permanently lived there.
3. Immerse Yourself In Local History
Chances are, your local bookstore has some cool history behind it. At the very least, it probably opened when people actually read books — which historians seem to indicate was no later than 1943.
Hanging around the bookstore — while definitely not as cool as ripping cigs outside of H&M — will probably lead to some fascinating discoveries about your town, the family whose been operating the bookstore since the Harding Administration, or the scandalous affair that took place in the Fiction A-G section in 1966.
Get to know the history, and maybe even become a part of that history.
4. Romance Is (Somewhat) Possible
I recently read a very good book called The Visible Man, by Chuck Klosterman. There was a portion of the book that discussed the cliched nature of reality — that “movies can’t show reality, because honest depictions of reality offend intelligent people.”
“Just watch any husband arguing with his wife about something insignificant; listen to what they say and watch how their residual emotions manifest when the fight is over. It’s so formulaic and unsurprising that you wouldn’t dare re-create it in a movie. All the critics would mock it. They’d all say the screenwriter was a hack who didn’t even try. This is why movies have less value than we like to pretend — movies can’t show reality, because honest depictions of reality offend intelligent people.”
Medium-sized story short, I was at a bookstore recently, squeezed in a tight corner with a woman on a ladder and a younger woman on the other side of the ladder. We constantly had to let each other pass by, making for a humorous series of close interactions that felt exactly like the beginning of a romantic comedy.
If the parties in question were both single, it would’ve been a crime for this not to escalate into something more substantial. And had this actually escalated into a date, it probably would’ve felt too contrived to be believable. But it happened, in the sense that this set of circumstances actually occurred. And it wasn’t orchestrated by a screenwriter employed by Paramount Pictures.
5. Peace And Quiet
When the days are cold and the cards all fold, I reduce my stress and anxiety by going to the bookstore nearby. I’m not sure if this habit is weird or predictable, but there’s something unnaturally calming about walking about in a quiet place that simultaneously smells like early November fire and damp teabags.
6. Stave Off Digital Dystopia
Whenever I walk into a bookstore, I temporarily forget that the establishment very well may cease to exist in ten years time. For whatever reason, watching 33 year-old men and women (people at bookstores are always 33) mill around a table, quizically picking up and putting down various book jackets is one of the most soothing endeavors one can ever embark on.
Last time I was at my place of literary worship, I contemplated buying this newish book called The Internet Is Not The Answer; an indictment of Silicon Valley and the internet economy, which argues that, as the title suggests, the internet is not the answer.
Upon seeing that book jacket in one of the last remaining places where people aren’t encouraged to gorge themselves in gadgetry, that message automatically felt like something to root for.
7. People Watching Paradise
Be it potential romantic interests, almost-couples finding out that their almost partners have no idea who they really are (“you thought I’d like this book! Are you serious?”), or the silent, semi-guarded looks of judgement from cashiers, there’s arguably no better place to people watch than at a bookstore.
That probably isn’t true — city parks are second to none, as are parents at bowling alleys with large groups of seven year olds — but the point is that bookstores represent a slice of human to object interaction that can’t necessarily be replicated anywhere else. And that’s definitely worth something.