In Arcadia

Twin Valley beach
Twin Valley Beach at Governor Dodge State Park, via wonder_al on Flickr (Creative Commons)

A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of discovering a new bookstore, Arcadia Books, in Spring Green, Wisconsin. (Why yes, the URL for the store’s website IS readinutopia.com – they are obviously able to laugh at the fact that some parts of southern Wisconsin don’t really seem like the real world). We were in Spring Green looking for a place to eat lunch before we headed to Governor Dodge State Park to go to the beach. Our lunch was so-so (if you can call a swiss-cheddar-cheeseburger with fried onions on toast grilled like a grilled cheese sandwich so-so), but our visit to this bookstore certainly made up for it.

The first sign that Arcadia Books was my kind of place was evident when we first entered: they have a large range of children’s book-cover t-shirts from Out of Print Clothing hanging above the shelves in the children’s section. I’m a huge fan. There is also a nice little cafe in the store. After we had done our shopping, we enjoyed sitting down and drinking an iced cold-brew coffee. I have found that cold-brew coffee is much more common in Wisconsin than it was in Toronto when I was visiting this summer, so I was excited to share the joy with my sister, who was visiting. Try it yourself! It’s got a much better flavour (less bitter) than iced hot coffee.

And, what did we shop for? My sister was looking for some children’s books, being as its birthday season in my family. We had a great chat with the store manager, who obviously has a great knowledge of children’s books, and a great memory for titles! The selection of children’s books in the store, especially chapter books for ages 6-12, is one of the best I’ve seen. And I visit A LOT of bookstores! They had some old favourites, like The Great Brain and many many Tintin books, but I was mostly impressed by the great selection of children’s books I’ve never heard of, including many many series. Two that books that stood out were:

Shoeless Joe and Me, part of the Baseball Card Adventure Series of stories about kids and baseball heroes in historical context, and

The Mysterious Benedict Society, the first in a series about four kids who answer an ad in a newspaper asking “Are you a gifted child looking for new opportunities?”

As everyone who was a voracious reader as a child knows that as soon as a kid finishes one book, he or she is bound to ask “What’s next??”. The store manager not only knew which series were likely to be attractive to kids of a certain age, he also knew which books came first in each series, and which books they had in stock for each series. Excellent!

We also received several recommendations for adult books, and my sister picked up a copy of The Night Circus. I had the chance to look at their great selection of NYRB Classics, a reprint series from the New York Review of Books which I had never seen “in person” before. They are very aesthetically pleasing but somewhat daunting. I’m not sure I’m ever going to pick up my own NYRB classics edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton – only 1392 pages of light reading! The store also keeps on hand a full set of all the plays being performed during the current season at American Players Theater in Spring Green, and, as one might expect, has a large number of books on Frank Lloyd Wright, who lived at nearby Taliesin.

Me, I opted for some beach reading, and picked up a copy of F in Exams: the Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers. I had browsed through this book earlier in the summer in a bookstore in Toronto, and I had been kicking myself for not buying it. I was not disappointed, and I sat in the cafe at Arcadia Books and laughed so hard at this book that I started crying.

I’ll definitely be back to Arcadia Books!

 

Little Free Library catalog #2 – Willy St. Co-op

This is the Little Free Library I peruse most often: it’s right outside the Willy Street Co-op on the east side of the isthmus in Madison. The little library box-on-a-stick is the typical model: less fancy than the two-story fancy one in my last LFL post.

LFLJennySt2

When I checked this one out, on May 15, to be exact, it contained quite a variety of reading material. Not surprising at all, considering the fact that it’s located in one of Madison’s more eccentric neighborhoods (local trends include Tibetan prayer flags, front-yard veggie gardens, and hanging your baby swing from your front porch so you can sit and chat with your neighbors while your baby sails out over the flowerbeds). What was surprising was the fact that this Little Free Library has a blisteringly fast turnover. I walk past it at least once a day, and every day the selection is different. The books I found in it on May 15 had all been replaced within a few days. Does the C0-op replenish them (there is also a “take-a-book, leave-a-book” shelf inside the Co-op store), or is it all passersby?

LFLJennySt1

 Here are the details:
5 issues of Spin magazine

The Amateur American, James Saunders Elmore

Simon & Schuster handbook for writers, Lynn Quitman Troyka

The challenge of local feminisms : women’s movements in global perspective 

Pretty little things

Reversible errors

Human natures : genes, cultures, and the human prospect

Next up in this series, a Little Free Library on (two) wheels.