Two days driving across the beautiful plains and prairie of southern Colorado and Kansas, we reached the end of the Flint Hills Scenic Byway and the official end of the grand Western Road Trip. Just a drive for home along the familiar sights of I70 ahead. But an unexpected final treat awaited in Council Grove, the small town at the end of the Byway.
Flint Hills Books is a delightful shop in a fine old bank building in the center of town. The space wasn’t large enough for a big collection but it was very well chosen with a particularly choice case of local interest. The bookseller was friendly and chatted while tallying our stack of books. We’d made her day, she said, but I assured her that she’d made ours.
Nothing more but to head for home and start reading!
The landscape of northern Arizona is so endlessly interesting and beautiful that I really wasn’t thinking of books at all. But books are where you find them and the true book lover is ever alert.
Marble Canyon is a tiny community (Wikipedia calls it “a populated place”) at the Navajo Bridge near Glen Canyon. A “wide place in the road” we would call it in the Midwest, but there’s a little services cluster of lodge/trading post/gas station. I get some gas and go into the station for a cold tea. What a surprise to find shelves of local interest books where one usually sees the beef jerky display.
I picked up a couple of histories of the Powell expedition and expressed my pleasure to the clerk. He beamed and gave himself a quick pat on the back. His doing, he said, and told us that he stocks a really big selection next door in the Trading Post. He did not exaggerate; it was an excellent collection of regional interest titles.
One of my favorite bookstores anywhere is Maria’s Bookshop, an essential stop in our periodic visits to Durango. It’s not especially large, it doesn’t feel overcrowded, yet the collection is so well chosen that I always find something unexpected and interesting.
The Southwest Book Trader is another favorite in Durango. This used book store might be the archetype of the “pack ’em and stack ’em” style. One threads the paths carefully through several rooms that, quite literally, could not hold another volume. Probably. We browsed a while and selected half a dozen or so interesting titles, brushing off a little soot from the smokestack of the famous Durango-Silverton Railroad steam engine. All part of the charm, as is conversation with George, the longtime bookseller and teller of tales.
The Gold Rush country of Northern California is a beautiful area of mostly small to very small towns. Not too promising as an environment for bookstores, but we found that books – like gold – are where you find them.
First strike in Nevada City. Harmony Books packs a good, balanced selection of books into its historic storefront. Right by the front door is a case of local interest material with the Gold Rush guidebook we’ve been looking for.
Murphys is small but bustling with tourists looking for wine instead of gold. Amongst the tasting rooms is the bright and cheerful Books on Main.
Auburn is an attractive county seat town where we were able to find both real gold – a massive nugget displayed in the fine county museum – and a few literary nuggets at William Smith Books. Smith Books is a very good general used bookstore, an increasingly rare find. The shelves are well filled and meticulously organized.
Museum and Park gift shops are often good sources for books too. The Visitor’s Center at Calaveras Big Tree State Park had an excellent selection and gave us a fine tote bag to carry them.
Front Street Books in Alpine, Texas – as nice a small town bookstore as you’ll ever find. The stock is thoughtfully chosen with a strong but not exclusive emphasis on the local history and literature. Our purchases include a collectible Texas writer, contemporary Texas writers, several very small press translated from Spanish novels, a history of the US/Mexico border in WWI, and a couple of popular genre titles. Don’t miss it when visiting Big Bend National Park!