“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”
– Louisa May Alcott
A bibliophile. A logophile – in other terms, a word nerd. An armchair traveler most of my life, content to seek adventure in between the pages of a story, I am now an avid explorer of back roads leading to shops full of used books. A wayward wanderer, in search of forgotten stories, waiting to be found and reclaimed. And a girl from the North Country, finding her way to new corners of the map.
Born and raised in Aroostook County, it was rare for me to get the opportunity to travel anywhere other than to the Walmart in Presque Isle or to my family camp down in Elliotsville – the middle of a beautiful nowhere. Instead, I satiated my need for thrill and discovery through reading. My parents may have thought I was in my room all those summer afternoons, wasting the brief Maine sunshine – and sure, I was physically present in that yellow-walled room, but my spirit was elsewhere. I was sailing a course down the Mississippi with Huck Finn, catching a ship across the Atlantic to arrive in time to accept my letter from Hogwarts. I was beside the blinking green light on a dock in New York, looking over the water at Jay Gatsby’s estate, pining over lost love. And I was there with a book-thieving girl in Nazi Germany, hungry for the words that held the power to both destroy and save a million lives. George R.R. Martin has said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.” And I have. And each one a miracle, in its own way.
It wasn’t until after I moved away from home to attend the University of Maine that I had the chance to begin discovering new places. Being financially challenged (in case you were wondering, there are not many get-rich-quick opportunities given to English majors), my travels have mostly been within Maine, though I have also had the chance to sojourn to other places in New England. Someday, I will travel further; I will explore all the foreign places that up until now I have only read about in books. Until then, it is my pleasure and my passion to travel throughout Maine. And my favorite places to travel – indeed, the places that shape my itinerary on any weekend trip – are used bookshops. Discovering these bookshops takes me to all sorts of quirky places – converted chicken barns, retirees’ garages, booths in antique dealers’ warehouses. So far, my quest for finding used books has brought me all over the state, to Wells, Ellsworth, Bangor, Greenville, Fairfield – to name only a few.
Come along with me. Let me inspire you to get out and rediscover that incomparable magic of unearthing books from dusty shelves, the thrill of becoming immersed in a story. Books aren’t your thing? (I’ll try to forgive you for that.) Come along, anyway. Because my forays to these bookshops often mean I am in town for a day or two, I almost always do some exploring and would love to recommend to you other sites and adventures that are worth looking into. Scheduling and expenses permitting (one does need to work to earn the means to undertake such literary journeys, after all), I will be sharing my bookish adventures a couple times a month. One of the best things about a good used bookshop is that you find treasures you didn’t even know you were seeking. And I have learned that the journey to and from these bookshops is an integral part of the discovery – of new places, of twice told tales, and of myself.
Do you hear that? It’s the whispery call of thousands of pages of secondhand books, millions of words, waiting to be found again. So let’s go for an adventure. Let’s go somewhere that has previously only existed as a name on a map. I don’t know about you, but for this bibliophile, this word-worshiper, this wayward wanderer, it is time to plunge boldly into the next few thousand lives. All you have to do is turn the page.
Shannon L. Bowring