When I was in my thirties, I dreamed of owning a bookstore. My inspiration was a small independent in our neighborhood when we lived in Raleigh. The store front couldn’t have been more than a thousand square feet, but I always fell in love with books there that I hadn’t known existed before I walked in the door. It was there that I found my coffee table book of Richard Avedon photos from the American West and my illustrated anthology of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I imagined one day having my own little bookstore and spending my days pouring over catalogues, finding similar treasures for others.
Then along came Barnes and Noble and Borders to buy out the independents or run them out of business. And after that came Amazon. A click of a button, and the books showed up in the mail two days later. Then came digital books. A click of a button and the books showed up in your E-reader seconds later. Experts proclaimed print dead, and so was my dream of my own independent book store.
In my fifties, I discovered the experts were wrong. When I changed careers and became a high-school English teacher, I was shocked to find out that while Millenials can’t leave their phones in their pockets for more than five minutes, they hate reading on devices. Still, a bookstore was a risky prospect, so I found a new dream. I would have my own bookmobile! Just like when I was a country kid, the bookmobile would arrive to bring bored kids the books that would show them the world beyond their street or neighborhood or town.
When I told Dave about my grand plan, his response was, “You’re gonna have to come up with a business plan.”
“But it’s going to be a non-profit!” I proclaimed.
“How are you going to pay for it?” he asked.
“Well, I thought you could fund it!”
He just stared at me.
I knew I was never going to write a business plan, so a year ago I downsized my dream once again. This time, when I ran my idea of having a Little Free Library past Dave, he was not only supportive but volunteered to build it for me. I showed him photos of ones I liked…painted red and purple with all kinds of doo-dads hanging off them and quotes painted on the sides…and he built the one he liked. It’s beautiful. It looks like a fine piece of furniture. Last week it was installed in front of my neighborhood’s community center. It’s for my neighborhood, and as such, other people will take books and add new books, and it will take on a life of its own. But on that very first day, it was my bookstore, my bookmobile, my Little Free Library, and I got to choose every book.
Here are the books I chose:
Our First Loves
The books that made us love reading: Curious George (me, 2nd grade), Lord of the Rings (Mitch, 3rd grade), A Wrinkle in Time (Dave, 3rd grade)
The Cider House Rules and East of Eden (mine)
The Lovely Bones and Friday Night Lights (Mitch’s)
The Great Santini and Fahrenheit 451 (Dave’s)
From My Friend Betty (in honor of her 25th wedding anniversary):
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Sometimes a Great Notion
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
For Young Children
The Rainbow Fish (from Mitch’s girlfriend, Kirstie)
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (from my great-niece, Sophie)
Where the Wild Things Are (from my sister, Karan)
Madeline (from my friend Tamara)
Miss Nelson is Missing (from my niece, Beth)
Goodnight Moon (from my sister-in-law, Cheryl)
The Little Blue Truck (from my ex-student, Nina)
Pete the Cat (from my ex-student, Chelsi)
The Giving Tree (from my ex-student, Kiana)
For Elementary Schoolers
Bad Kitty for President (from my great-niece, Bella)
The Boxcar Children (from my brother, Bruce)
Captain Underpants (from my friend, Greg)
Bread and Jam for Francis (from my friend, Betsy)
The Hundred Dresses (from my friend, Kate)
A Dog’s Purpose (children’s edition) (from my friend, Linda)
The Lightning Thief (from my great-nephew, Sam)
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (from my brother-in-law, Ryan)
Fallen Angels (from Mitch)
Redwall (from my friend, Maria)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (from my niece, Kate)
For Young Adults (from my teaching years)
And for some variety…
140 Poems, edited by Billy Collins (poetry)
Hospitality with Amy (a funny cookbook)