Earlier this summer I stopped at one of my regular haunts while up in the Adirondacks, The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, NY, and said hello to the folks who run the shop, Sarah and Marc. They have a good selection of titles—a particularly nice variety in my own areas of interest, history and the outdoors.
It hasn't gotten any easier these days to run an independent bookstore, a truth vouchsafed by the very fact that you're reading these lines now on the Web—in the comfort of your home or even on the go, using a tablet or smart phone. How easy just to click through to a book and order without batting an eye!
But it's worth thinking about how one comes across the best books. Sure, ordering off the Web is easy and quick, especially when you have a particular title already in mind. But the most interesting finds don't come when you proceed straight as an arrow. When I'm looking up a volume in the library for research, I always browse up and down the shelf, to see what else is there that I knew nothing about. Sometimes a really astute study is tucked six or seven books down, something that covers a subject far better than the book I was seeking. Other times an archaic tome surfaces, the dust still clinging to it but fascinating and useful for its own reasons. Sometimes the find is an utterly nutty artifact which relates to nothing in particular I'm doing, but leaves me grinning ear to ear. (I still have xeroxes I made in the 1970s, of a manual from the early twentieth century on stage hypnotism, as well as a handbook on trapping in the Canadian North, which laid out little-known tricks to hunting beaver in the dead of winter or "pulling" fox hearts. (Both books are good topics, come to think of it, for future posts...)
So stop by The Bookstore Plus if you're in Lake Placid and browse. Then take your newfound purchase a few doors down to Big Mountain Deli and dive into your read while sampling one of their 46 multigrain and multifarious sandwiches, each named after one of the Adirondacks' 46 mountains over 4000 feet. I recommend #17 Saddleback: smoked salmon and bacon, lettuce, tomato seasoned with cracked pepper mayo. Truly tasty whether you're cruising across the Atlantic on the Lusitania, being thrown out of a Milwaukee tenement, or beginning a 500-year journey across America.
James West Davidson
Occasional thoughts on history, teaching, paddling and the outdoors