One of the things I loved about Homer was its bookstores. This small Alaskan town hosts three, and we dedicated a couple afternoons to poking around in two of them. During our first full day in Homer, we had breakfast at the excellent Two Sisters bakery, and then went up the road to the nearby Old Inlet Bookshop, located not far from Homer’s main beach.
The Old Inlet offers an enormous selection of used books, many stacked on the floor along the sides of the aisles. It’s one of those stores where you’re filled with awe at how much there is to read in the world. One of those stores where you pick up a book you’ve never heard of on a topic in which you never thought you’d have an interest. And yet there you are, standing in an aisle, transfixed.
I wound up flipping through Jean Henri Fabre’s illustrated book on insects (you can see it in the stacks in the photo above), particularly the pages on cicadas. I didn’t wind up buying it, but I was tempted.
The Old Inlet’s second floor is mostly dedicated to fiction and literature, with some history along the back wall.
The fiction section’s shelves often have books two rows deep, so that you only ever see a small sliver of the store’s collection. There is something comforting about this magnitude of books. A comfort that resonates in this particular location, at the edge of an Alaskan peninsula, where there are winters of darkness.
On our trip, at the height of summer daylight, I was struck by this sunlit upstairs space, and the coziness of this wicker-chaired nook amid the novels.
The owner keeps the literature grouped in rough alphabetical order, separating out the hardcover from the paperback and — delightfully — creating a whole section for short stories.
I wound up buying this one: Best American Short Stories from 1946. An amazing find. J. found the sequel to the John Cheever novel he was reading, and a hardcover copy of The Godfather.
And, to boot, the owner of The Old Inlet is an incredibly nice guy — a former fisherman and a writer in his own right. He and my husband and I wound up talking for quite some time about running and fishing and writing and books. He even lent us his phone and tried to track down a local race for J. while we were in town.
I can’t recommend this bookstore highly enough. Whiling away an afternoon there was an utter pleasure.
p.s. You’re in luck today! My good friend John over at Oh John Carroll has a terrific new post on Moe’s Books and City Lights Bookstore in the San Francisco area. Go check it out!
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Hey Melissa! It’s Madie from Seaside Farm! I love reading your blog and was wondering if you also visited the rare and used bookstore across the street from the Old Inlet Bookstore owned by the eccentric Russian man? If you liked this one, then you would of loved the one across the street! I’ve acquired a few books from there such as a book of Emerson’s poems from the 1800s and another called Barrack Room Ballads by Kipling, also from the 1800s. If you see it and you ever return to Homer again, I highly recommend it! He has a lot of first editions and so many books just piled all the way to the ceiling! I also snagged two Carpentry guides from the 1930s! Your blog is great by the way!
Madie! How terrific to hear from you! I’m so glad you like the blog. I didn’t make it over to the used & rare bookstore while we were in town… although I did stop by The Homer Bookstore (stay tuned for a post on that). The used and rare bookstore sounds amazing… and you’ve had some particularly nice finds. The poetry books sound lovely, and the 1930s carpentry guides are just perfect for you. Isn’t it wonderful when a used bookstore delivers exactly what one needs? Please do stay in touch, Madie. I still want to buy one of your handmade books!
Question for you Melissa — did you buy another copy of Andrea Barrett’s book (pictured)?
Believe it or not, I managed to refrain this time! (The prospect of having to carry it across the continent was good incentive…)