Bookshopping: Carroll & Carroll

On my weekend trip to the Poconos, I stopped at Carroll & Carroll Booksellers in Stroudsburg.  Walking down the main drag in Stroudsburg feels like going back in time a few decades: they have a bookshop, a music store, a camera shop, and just for good measure a homemade ice cream shop (called, delightfully, Sweet Creams.  Get the cinnamon.  It’s delicious.)

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Carroll & Carroll has a terrific collection that encompasses everything from brand-new novels and hardcovers to standard-issue used books, to some pretty gorgeous antique editions.  And they’re all jumbled together in great, inviting piles.  Usually when I see bookstores mix new and used books together like this — at favorite bookstores like Boulder Books and Powells — the used books are incorporated into the new book shelves.  But Carroll & Carroll organizes the whole bookstore like a used bookstore, with bookshelves stocked two-rows deep and piles stacked on floors and in corners.  There will be two new copies of Rebecca Makkai with a tattered Malamud sandwiched between.  And in this bookstore, that absolutely works.

Perhaps because of the nearby college, or more likely because of the fabulous, sharp, witty couple that owns this shop, there’s a pretty impressive selection of whip-smart literature.  A whole row of Doris Lessing, a shelf of Proust.

And then completely random and unexpected extras.  I wound up in a great conversation with the bookstore owner about a book on pencil sharpening that turns out to be as fascinating as it is unironic.  (So many significant daily inventions are perfectly designed for the jobs they do, but are not quite world-changing, we marveled.)

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The owners keep a wall of newsclippings about writers and books, mostly obituaries of great modern writers.  And it feels like a nice reminder of our shared enterprise, our community of writers and readers and booksellers.  A point of human connection with all the people who wrote the books we’re browsing.

Plus, for balance, some comics.

That’s what it feels like in this bookstore: that you’re discovering things every time you bend down over a bookpile or move the front row from a shelf.  Each time there’s something unexpected and delightful, engaging and challenging.

I really did have such a nice afternoon in Stroudsburg.  And just when I’d finished book browsing, I walked one block away and found this:

My week has been happily stocked with books and records ever since this trip.

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