Paperbacks have their spines broken, from being read and reread time and time again, and the corners of the pages are folded into a dog ear, to quickly identify favorite passages. Missing their dust jackets, scratched and a little bit dented, the latest nonfiction hardbacks, grabbed off the shelf at the airport gift shop, gather dust on my shelf. I’ve read them all, but there are so many great books out there that I suspect I’ll never give them the time they deserve for a more through 2nd read.
Textbooks are in another category altogether – I’ve been wildly liberal with my ink pens, highlighters and worn-down pencils, underlining, making notes, questioning words I haven’t used before, and highlighting key passages. I’m not sure who would want these books in such a condition – the next reader certainly can’t count on my having highlighted the “right” passages – but there is great knowledge contained between their pages.
With their “.5 Million Plus Inventory”, Chamblin’s Uptown Books in Jacksonville, FL encourages patrons to trade in their books. . . and go home with more (“new to you”) books.
You can almost feel the history oozing from the thousands of books on display. The majority of the books in the store have been read (or at least owned) by another person. Whatever their condition, these books are stacked up, crammed into shelves, organized by rough categories, filling two stories of this used bookstore. Chamblin’s has been in business in Jacksonville since 1976 – almost as many years as I’ve been alive, and many more than I’ve been the avid reader that I am today.
Most visitors to Jacksonville, or any humid stretch of Florida, are more interested in endless sunshine, juicy orange groves, and a chance at an early retirement than interested in curling up with a good book, in the musty corner of a bookshop filled with tattered pages. But my friends and family know that nudging me in the direction of a bookstore experience, like the unique one you will find here, is just the right thing to do.
“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me and reminded me that there are good things in the world.” Vincent van Gogh
In the technological world of 2016, why would anyone spend time in a bookstore when they have limited travel time, and might never revisit the location they find themselves in? Aren’t there books everywhere, and millions of books on every subject able to be ordered online, with next day shipping? Why not download a digital copy to the device already there in your hands, and start reading right away? Can there be a real future for brick and mortar bookstores?
If you get to Jacksonville, take a step into Chamblin’s bookstore. Close your eyes. What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you feel, both literally and figuratively? There’s a coffee shop at the front of the store, with outdoor seating that is full to capacity in April. A deep inhale fills your nose with the earthy fragrance of freshly ground coffee beans, turned into dark espressos, flavorful lattes, and frothy cappuccinos. There’s a line at the counter, but here no one seems to mind – everyone in line has a book in her hand, and can casually flip through the pages. Books and coffee go together, because they encourage you to linger, to indulge, and to open your mind.
Here at Chamblin’s the book selection is extensive! Every topic I looked for, from creative arts to celebrity gossip, from mindfulness to modern philosophy, was represented. Of course there was a special section showcasing all things from Florida, and books on the long history and anticipated future of Jacksonville.
In one corner of the store, there’s a quite hush, with muted conversation coming from a group of young college students flipping through used CDs; the quiet is broken from time to time, by laughter and excited conversation when they come across a title they have not listened to in years, but which brings back memories of 9th grade angst or childhood adventure. One CD, housed in a worn case, with a ripped insert, brings with it flashbacks of one young man’s experiences in high school – memories of that beautiful girl that (it seemed) everyone in the graduating class had a crush on. She only knew his name because he’d been in the same class since Kindergarten; he knew just about everything about her, watching her quietly from afar.
Perhaps it’s because if these strong memories that theft of digital media is high! The store takes this problem seriously, and expects a rather specific treatment of its digital products. If a DVD leaves the digital media section of the book store, it’s to be brought straight to the counter for purchase or holding.
Walking up the stairs to the second floor – up an old, narrow staircase – an eclectic collection of local artwork greets you along both walls. Some pieces are professionally framed, while others are tacked to the wall with masking tape. Post-it notes announce prices, artist contact info, and the title of the piece. It’s a mixture of highly sophisticated pieces and beginner art projects. Some of it has been there for quite a while. It’s possible some of the artists have advanced to other, more lucrative endeavors, and may have forgotten that their pieces are still on display.
Collectors likely make regular visits to this old book store, to keep an eye out for that volume that will complete their collection. Minimalists turn to it as a place to offload items that no longer provide joy. (See the writings of Marie Kondo – “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”.) Sentimentalists might avoid a place like this, fearing that it will threaten their favorite reads, or they might seek this place out, to let go of a book dear to their hearts, so that someone else can experience all that it has already brought to their lives.
A visit to the book store opens up possibilities; there is mystery, entertainment, education, and inspiration. A used book store may offer even more than the racks of new publications and best sellers at a chain store – you don’t always know what you’ll find behind the doors of a Half Price Books, a local rare books seller, or a used store like Chamblin’s. Donating books so someone else can read them can be seen as an act of decluttering and minimalism or an act of charity or environmentalism.
Minimalist Josh Becker reports that 1 in 10 Americans rent off-site storage, to house all of the “stuff” that won’t fit in their homes. He advocates holding onto only those items that serve a real purpose in your life. He writes: “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of anything that distracts us from it. . . and that looks different from person to person, and family to family, and I think that’s okay, and I think that’s great. There’s freedom in it.” (see website, listed below)
I’ve benefited from borrowing books from the avid readers in my life, including family and friends who make a profession of working in public and school libraries. When they are finished with a book, I hope it finds a new reader, a new home. The “Little Free Library” is a great place to take your used books, contribute to your local community of readers, become exposed to titles you might not otherwise consider, clear space on your bookshelf, and join the ranks of those who Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It’s one small small way to turn your residence into a “Green Spot”.
Courtney Carver approaches downsizing from another perspective. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, she began reevaluating the stressors in her life, and the things that clutter up her time, her living space, and her mental life. She takes on the topic of living a minimalist lifestyle on her website, and I believe she’d be a huge proponent of libraries (big or little) and finding a new home for the things in your life that don’t bring joy, serve a purpose, or add value.
Carver’s 7 Steps to a Minimalist Lifestyle:
- Write it down (Your “why” or reasons for change) – there is great emotional leverage in this when thngs get challenging.
- Discard the Duplicates – start with the easy stuff!
- Declare a “clutter free zone” in your home.
- Travel Lightly! (Pack for ½ the time you will travel, or less.)
- Dress with Less – see the 333 project
- Eat Similar Meals
- Have an Emergency Fund
Some might visit Jacksonville and never know that Chamblin’s book store exists. Others might be aware of it, but plan on a day in the sun, with a drink in hand and SPF 50 applied liberally, a day that does not include roaming the dusty aisles of books at a used book store. But those who do seek out a spot like Chanblin’s won’t be disappointed. Whether they are there to acquire or there to donate, there’s a hot cup of coffee waiting for them at the front counter!
Chamblin Bookmine: http://www.chamblinbookmine.com/default.aspx
Chamblin’s Uptown: https://www.facebook.com/chamblinsuptown#
Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering-Organizing-ebook/dp/B00KK0PICK
Little Free Library: https://littlefreelibrary.org/
Becoming Minimalist – website of Joshua Becker: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/
Courtney Carver: http://courtneycarver.com/
Project 333: http://bemorewithless.com/project-333/