Libraries are my favourite places on the planet – next to chocolate shops. No, wait … libraries first, then chocolate shops. Closely followed by a store here in Toronto that sells nothing but ribbon.
But somewhere in that top list comes book stores. There’s one in particular I’ve mentioned before and I returned today for the first time in months.
It’s a rough-and-tumble place tucked underground at the subway — perfect for commuters looking for a good read. Last time, I think I described the proprietor as a cross between Woody Allen and Barack Obama.
He’s tall, dark and nerdy, wears thick-lensed specs and a pilled wool cardigan. He rarely stocks new books, mostly remaindered titles and lots of reference volumes and children’s books. But in an era of big box book warehouses, it’s a pleasure to hang out in a place where the owner just plain loves books.
I wasn’t planning to buy anything today, just wanted to take a look. And as I stood there browsing, a university student came in, walked right past the shelves, sought him out and asked, “What do you recommend today?” After chatting for a minute about the types of books she liked best, he recommended a few, she took one and left smiling.
He then walked up to me and I thought he was going to ask if I needed help. Instead, he said, “How was your day today?”
I almost dropped the book I was holding. We talked for a minute, he told me about living in Australia and explained how they solved the wild boar overpopulation problem there. Did not have anything to add on that topic.
Before I knew it, I was buying not one but two books, not for myself, of course (you knew there had to be a good deed in here somewhere, right?).
But the receivers of these books won’t have me to thank for the gesture … only Woody Obama.