The last time I traveled to the Northeast, I took along a library book. It didn’t keep up with me: someone at the Red Lion Inn in the Berkshires got a good read, and the Palm Beach Country Library System got a new book. Ever since, I’ve packed a book I’ve already paid for.
Before our recent trip to Europe, I kept meaning to get to a bookstore: not the book section of Target or the paperbacks next to the magazines in the grocery store but an actual bookstore. Here was the problem: there is only one such business within 25 miles of our home — a Barnes and Nobles – and my pre-trip errands had me everywhere but there. I ended up shopping for reading at the airport, paying a ridiculous price for a couple of pretty good paperbacks, and at least supporting the writing business.
Then we landed in Amsterdam, a city that seemed to have a bookstore on every corner, and not just books in Dutch but in English and Italian and German. Two small used books shops were a block apart down Stengel from Hotel Estherea with a spot selling good reads and old-fashioned vinyl.
Around the corner, one shop specialized in just the kind of books I was looking for but not finding in my town. The American Book Center, the neighborhood bookstore I was looking for, 4,500 miles from home. And the best discovery of all was the Amsterdam Book Market that sets up outdoors every Friday, not just on sunny spring days like the one we enjoyed in May but every Friday year-round. Delightful.
I bought four books at the market: two sets of beautiful handmade paper book earrings, crafted by the mother of one of the book sellers. I wear mine to meetings of the Wellington West Boynton Writers Group, a “writers helping writers” group of the Florida Writers Association. The other set I gave to our group’s leader, mentor, coach, Caryn Gross-DeVincenti. We sport them well.
We’ll be back in Amsterdam next May, and cheerful literacy is just one reason!