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.