Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore Score

Brick and mortar bookstores are as rare as hen’s teeth these days, it seems, and that’s a shame. I enjoy the instantaneous convenience and enormous selection of Amazon and Abebooks, but there’s something about musty old bookstores that online shopping cannot replace. The tactile sensation of picking up books, the joy of utterly unexpected finds, and the atmosphere of a shop devoted to reading and book-selling, are experiences that online delivery mechanisms cannot replicate.

Yesterday I found a wonderful bookstore that reminded me of the unique advantages and pleasures of the real over the virtual: Mansfield’s Books and More in Tilton, New Hampshire. Tilton is a town I had driven through numerous times without a cause to stop, outside of filling a gas tank and the like. But yesterday while playing chauffer on a back-to-school shopping trip with my wife and kids I caught a glimpse of a storefront window in Tilton center that I had previously overlooked. In a brief glance I took in a display of hardcover books in the front window and a few cartons of paperbacks placed outside with a sign indicating a sidewalk sale. My attention piqued, I managed to free myself from the clutches of clothes and shoe shopping with little difficulty and quickly backtracked to Mansfield’s.

Mansfield’s occupies what appears to be a former office building. The main room has a fireplace in one wall with a few overstuffed chairs. A narrow hallway at the back opens up on left and right to six rooms that were presumably individual offices at one time. Most of these smaller rooms were still hung with old, ornate doors with frosted glass panes and other such details, though one clearly served as a small kitchen at one point, complete with a sink. Each room—the main room in the front and the half-dozen at the back—was overflowing, floor to ceiling, with used books, as well as a scattering of other items (the “More” refers to some old movie posters, knickknacks, and used DVDs and CDs).

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10 comments:

Paul R. McNamee said...

Very nice. I used to leave my wife at the Wrentham outlets, and go down the road into Plainville to Second Look Books. Unfortunately, I did some websearching last month and discovered Second Look went out of business in 2009. :(

David J. West said...

You nailed it Brian, this is exactly what I love about bookstores.

My wife now keeps an eye out to let me know if she sees one of these (to me) gold mines.

The Wasp said...

My friends and I used to take long book runs from NYC to Providence and Philly. Over time the stores all vanished. I love the e-book convenience but I miss the hunt and excursions.
Congratulations on the find. I love that cover. That's a book on my giant to-be-read stack.

Michal said...

You'll enjoy The Long Ships. Probably the best novel novel about vikings out there.

No matter what L. Sprague de Camp may have said.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I'm relatively lucky that I know where quite a few Trade-A-Book stores are..

At least 6 of them in fact.. with even more if I wanted to venture into Atlanta... The problem is less a lack of book stores as a lack of things I want when I go to them.. I still do my best to check them occasionally just on the off chance of finding some goodies.. but at this point the pickings have started to get a bit slim.

Pericles said...

Have not read THE LONG SHIPS, but the film version is pretty bad.

Bengtsson wrote a fairly decent biography of Charles XII, my favorite Swedish monarch.

Mansfield's sounds lovely. There is indeed something deeply alluring about a fine used bookstore. One is sad for those grim souls who can't understand that feeling.

Brian Murphy said...

Unfortunately, I did some websearching last month and discovered Second Look went out of business in 2009. :(

That's too bad. Mansfield's and More is so old-school that it doesn't have a website... I got a slip of paper with my purchase with the phone number of the place and an e-mail address only...

... wait a minute, check out this clip on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkD1qjM4RE4. There it is! A lot more interesting info on the building itself.

No matter what L. Sprague de Camp may have said.

Uh-oh... did de Camp drop an elbow on The Long Ships? Damn him!

I still do my best to check them occasionally just on the off chance of finding some goodies.. but at this point the pickings have started to get a bit slim.

I've got the same problem... I've accumulated a lot of books over the years, as you may imagine, and the stuff I'm interested in is getting harder to find.

Have not read THE LONG SHIPS, but the film version is pretty bad.

I didn't know there was a film... sounds like a miss though.

Brian Murphy said...

As an FYI, there are a lot more books now than are shown in that youtube video. The back rooms are now stuffed, and one had a dozen or more unpacked boxes of books. The front room now has 3-4 more shelves as well, there is more in that adjoining hallway, etc.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I dunno, the Long Ship's isn't that bad.. it's better than "The Norseman".. with Lee Majors..

Though.. oddly.. it turned out that "The Norseman" is the reason we got a Black Heimdall in Brannaghs Thor..

Funny how these things work I guess..

Eric D. Lehman said...

The Long Ships is an excellent book. A little asymmetrical from a structural point of view, but my favorite "Viking" book, and more.