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Little Professor

When I was little and my mom would take us kids on errands around Omaha, we would, without fail, end up at Baker’s Square at 132nd and Center. If ever there were a golden age for Baker’s stores in Omaha, this was it, and this was our regular location because -- if you can believe it – that one was the furthest west. Omaha basically stopped at 144th? 156th? back then. But lucky for us, Baker’s was situated in an L-shaped strip mall, and if you just walked over to the other part of the L, you would come to one of my favorite childhood haunts: Little Professor Book Center.
Little Professor is where I bought every copy of The Baby-Sitters Club that I didn’t get from my Scholastic book orders in school. And where I bought each and every chunky summer special. It’s where I bought every copy of the spin-off series: Baby-Sitters Little Sister. It’s where my sister bought every copy of Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High that she later passed on to me. To this day, I remember where my section was in the store, and where the counter was, and to walk inside and smell fresh books and get to browse the aisles and walk out with a new book in hand was one of the best natural highs money can buy.
Who’s with me?
So even though Little Professor is no longer, and my preferred grocery store is a full two miles away from Omaha’s The Bookworm, I make a point of taking my girlies there periodically to indulge in my own nostalgia about good bookstores and childhood reading and to hopefully create some long-lasting memories of their own. Even if those memories include me yelling at them to stop reading their new books and save them for our two-day road trip, for the love. (We have library books aplenty to tide us over until then.)
Bookstores have always been such an important part of my life that I have not so jokingly joked that Postscript will become half bookstore in time. But I confess that while I find curating a shop to be wildly indulgent, it also has its challenges. It’s tough to figure out how to bring on more books without having the selection feel arbitrary or too narrow an extension of my own particular reading tastes. I haven’t quite been sure where to draw the lines. The day I opened, I had a small selection of children’s books like The Mighty Lalouche and The Jolly Postman, all specifically about mail. Then I expanded the picture book selection and added instructional manuals and reference books for lettering and book arts. I picked up beautiful hardcover classics and then a few coffee table books, primarily around letter writing and correspondence. And there’s also a tiny and oddball group of books about poetry.
But I think I finally figured out where to move next: epistolary novels (novels written as a series of letters) and nonfiction collections of letters. Letters are such a fabulous genre – candid and private and unstudied – and will obviously underscore what my shop is all about. And epistolary novels are just such a delightful subgenre of fiction. Fanny Burney’s Evelina. Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. And contemporary uses of this genre like Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. There will be quite a range while also still hanging together as a category. But! I can use recommendations! Do you have any favorites from these categories that I should make sure to have on my shelves?
This will be the most oddball little stationery / paper goods / coffee bar / bookstore / book arts workshop the world ever did see. And I am thrilled with how it’s shaping up.
I may not have followed through on my original plan to become an English professor. But even though I’m not leading college students through obscure literary territory, that doesn’t mean I can’t still be a professor in my own small way. A little professor, let’s say. All 5 foot 4 inches of me, stationed in a little shop in a little town, crafting a space that is not entirely unlike a classroom, with chalkboards and books and sharp pencils and the mission to plant within those who step inside curiosity and an ache for a life full of beauty and meaning.