Primarily, Twice Sold Tales focuses on Maine-based bookshops. But there will be times when I will share reviews of stores I go to within other locations in New England as well. As my work schedule has been a bit hectic these past couple weeks, I haven’t gotten the chance to get out to explore any new shops. So this week, let me take you back to a weekend adventure I took a few months ago. In fact, it was this very bookshop that gave me the inspiration for this blog – I suppose you could say it had that right kind of magic…
This quote, written in faded sepia-toned dry-erase marker, peeks out from a white-board perched atop an old piano, nestled among other various personal knick-knacks and photographs. It seems appropriate that one only discovers the lovingly hand-copied phrase if one is looking past the more obvious books and relics to find the hidden treasure buried within the entropy of the literary world that is The Shire Book Shop.
Upon first entering the store, I was immediately drawn to the shelves located just behind the owner’s desk. Rows upon rows of various J.R.R. Tolkien literature smiled down at me – several volumes in particular were eye-catching: a red, leather-bound beauty containing all three Lord of the Rings books, as well as one of the iconic blue-and-green editions of The Hobbit, the cover illustrated with the Mirkwood Forest and the Lonely Mountains. Seeing them there made me feel like I was in the right place.
The alcove area of the shop boasts Modern First Editions and other collectible volumes of fiction, nonfiction, and illustrated children’s books. One discovery in this area was a beautiful copy of Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, bound in dark-blue leather. Many of these first editions are a bit pricey, but it is well worth it to peruse the selection and to lose yourself in the pleasure of running your fingers along the spines of so many classic titles, imagining the words on the pages beneath. Maybe, like me, you are unable to afford these hefty tomes, but you can still benefit from the experience of being surrounded by so many stories and tales of love, loss, heartache, adventure. Literary osmosis.
(…By the way, is there any better smell than the smell of a used bookstore? That sharp, musty, somewhat spicy aroma of pages and words and knowledge and worlds to be discovered. It’s my favorite smell in the whole world. It smells like joy. Like home.)
Throughout the shop – on windowsills, tucked into corners – is an eclectic assortment of personal items that seem to have overflowed from the owners’ personal lives, as though there was nowhere else to store them. Pots, pans, antique tools, vacuums, pictures, an old sewing mannequin. The strange, unexpected presence of these relics makes the shop seem authentic to a true bibliophile – as though it is a peek inside the mind of a reader/writer. A seemingly nonsensical conglomeration of mismatched junk that, when viewed all together, provides material for one hell of a story. And what is a bookshop if not a haven of untold stories? That’s what it’s all about, after all.
Long rows of shelves hold books on practically any subject of interest: naval and maritime history, travel, autobiography, anthologies, nonfiction, fiction – to name only a few genres. There are stacks of un-filed books piled along the shelves, just waiting for the patient patron to dig through them. The shop is quiet, the only sounds those of a couple other customers sliding books from shelves, flipping pages, shuffling their feet upon the faded rugs on the floor.
At the register, the owner – a wizened, somewhat humpbacked old man with a friendly smile and unkempt white hair – offers to put a dust jacket on one of the hardback fiction books I have chosen. I decline, and he nods and smiles at me as he gently places my finds into bags, tucking a bookmark featuring a sketch of Bilbo Baggins into the pages of a short story anthology – my own, personal “my precious” of the day.
Though it is a bit out of the way – especially for a Maine girl like me, going an another weekend literary excursion with my book-obsessed other half – The Shire Book Shop is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Tucked away at the end of a parking lot located at 305 Union Street in Franklin, MA, the store is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10-5 and Sunday 12-5. My best advice: commit to spending at least an hour or two here. Take in the view of all the books, wander amongst the shelves, breathe in that bookshop smell, and then, when you find that perfect copy of the book you didn’t even know you needed, curl up on one of the couches and allow yourself to become immersed in the words of the story.
As Tolkien taught us, not all those who wander are lost. They may just be heading towards a new used bookstore, in search of the next great read. Roads go ever on and on, and this bibliophile is glad hers led to The Shire Book Shop. “Now far ahead the Road has gone/And I must follow, if I can…” Onto the next bookshop, my next little paradise.
Don’t think Franklin, MA, is only about books! Located an hour southwest of Boston – and only about fifteen minutes away from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough – Franklin has lots of shops, restaurants and bars. We had delicious takeout from The Mac Deli – they have sandwiches, salads, and mac n’ cheese (their specialty). I also recommend Spruce Pond Creamery, which uses all organic ingredients in its wood-fired flatbread pizza – and they have amazing homemade ice cream! If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, head to Wright’s Dairy Farm & Bakery, located in North Smithfield, RI – about a half-hour drive. They make their pastries and other goodies using milk from the cows right on the farm – and you just might get a chance to pet some adorable baby cows while you’re there! Also, fun fact for New England Patriots fans: Tom Brady briefly lived in Franklin.
As a final note for today’s post, I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving! This has been a year full of wonders and things for which I am very grateful – love, sunny days, laughter, and, of course, all things bookish. I have read well, written more than I’d imagined possible, and have recently been given the opportunity to work for Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick – in other words, my dream job. And I get to write these blog posts, where I can reach readers like you who, for whatever reason, have chosen to read my words. I’m so grateful to share my bookish adventures, travels, and literary musings with you. Thank you! And as always – Happy Reading.