Camden and Rockland, Maine
Actually, I found heaven in two bookstores in Maine. The Owl & Turtle Bookshop in Camden and Rock City Books in Rockland were both examples of small, lovingly curated, independent bookstores that did not feel small at all. An avid reader can spend hours in shops like these because each shelf is worth scanning. You can feel the love that the owners put into each purchase because there is no wasted space on the shelves.
When we camp near a new city or town I am always on the lookout for independent bookstores. They are becoming harder and harder to find these days as more people shop online and purchase ebooks for their Kindles and Nooks. Apparently the good people of Maine did not get this memo. There seemed to be bookstores everywhere. Every little coastal town that we drove through seemed to have its own jewel of a shop. When you are traveling with kids this can be a frustrating experience. If the boys are napping, you just ain’t stopping. And if the boys are awake and you are within an hour of mealtime, you just ain’t stopping. And if there is absolutely no reason why you ain’t stopping, then you just ain’t stopping either.
Well, to tell the truth, there is actually a pretty good reason for not stopping. When I take my boys into a bookstore, sure, they like to look at the books on the shelves–and then they like to rearrange them. If you ever find a copy of Potty Time with Elmo tucked into the New Age section then you know that Max and Theo have been browsing the shelves. This is fine when they are in my disorganized library at home–but not when they are in a lovely little bookstore filled with quiet little old (bespectacled!) readers and quiet little young (bespectacled!) bookstore clerks that have either sent their kids off to college or have not yet produced their own spawn (They are too busy reading!).
Now that Max and Theo form my central narrative I often have to sneak into bookstores during the blank, white spaces in-between chapters (during naps and after bedtime.) Luckily, my wife fully encourages this clandestine behavior because she often joins the boys for a well-deserved nap. I may no longer have time to lazily loaf through the shelves and spend precious minutes examining the precise condition of dust jackets, and I may no longer have time to triple check the poetry shelf for new releases. But I still proudly find time for book shopping. However, my trips to the bookstore have become more surgical and precise. I go in knowing what I want to buy and accepting that there is not enough time to search for a serendipitous purchase.
This attitude led me to pick up the following Maine related books at Rock City and The Owl & Turtle:
When I am vacationing I often like to read about the place during the trip. I find that it enriches my travels. While I was Quick Draw Mcgraw when it came to picking the books up at those two fine shops, apparently I was not quick enough when it came to actually reading them.
Within minutes of arriving back at the campground my mother-in-law had claimed The Lobster Chronicles and my wife had picked up The Lobster Coast and called dibs on The Lobster Chronicles when her mom was done. My mother-in-law then pulled the vicious move of calling dibs on The Lobster Coast when my wife was done. They will not remember events unfolding in this manner–but I promise you–that’s exactly what happened. I was philosophical and decided that I would be happy to just eat some lobster while in Maine. That’s better than reading about it anyway? Right?
When the girls curled up around the fire with their new books I made-do with a copy of the Bangor Daily News. Everyone was happy.