If you want a bookstore mostly to yourself, go on a fine, sunny summer weekend. There will always be those with reading on their minds, of course, but since we’re still dealing with a pandemic, going when it’s quiet feels right. Having to drop someone off for an event in rural New Jersey, I found myself with a couple of hours and the prospect of sitting in a hot car and trying to read or to find another way to use time productively. It was a fine, sunny summer weekend day. I realized the event wasn’t far from Frenchtown. Now, I’d been through Frenchtown several times, often with my wife on her way to a weekend stint at work. I’d noticed Frenchtown Bookshop, but since we were always on our way somewhere, we could never stop.
Public parking in Frenchtown is difficult on a fine, sunny summer weekend. There is a bike and hike trail that passes near the Delaware there, and there’s also the river itself. Kayaking and rafting on the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania are popular pastimes. The mercury was creeping up to 90, so people were out, either sweating on the trail or cooling their heels in the water. Both public lots in town were full, as was all the on street parking I could find. A bank tow-away lot—the bank was closed—seemed like the only option. Independent bookstores are national treasures. I always carry a list with me since it’s too easy to lose my head when surrounded by print. If my specialized tastes aren’t represented, I can always find something.
Books are one of the great achievements of humankind. Although circumstances may have prevented many women from making careers in writing early on—Enheduanna proved even among the Sumerians that women had wisdom to convey. Once novels came to be written, the form was well populated with female sages. Reading and writing were kept from slaves for fear of what might happen could they see what the knowledge of humanity really said. The internet has, of course, become the great democratizer of writing, but has made it more difficult to get a publisher’s attention. Apart from all that, books laid out on a table, or stacked neatly on shelves, are one of the simple, usually inexpensive, joys of life. For about the price of a movie you can stretch that entertainment dollar out over several days. Even when they’re fine, sunny summer weekend days.