I live in a town I lovingly refer to as an intellectual black hole. Rife with fast food restaurants, auto supply stores and a dying mall, until today, Zanesville has not had a bookstore since Borders closed down in 2011. The nearest full-service bookstore is an hour’s drive, and for a bibliophile like myself, that is akin to living in one of Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell.
It is two below zero on a sunny Saturday morning when I arrive for opening day. The store has been officially open for ten minutes and already the aisles are packed with potential book buyers. As I enter, a woman I know from book discussion groups at the library hands me a bookmark and welcomes me. The store smells of fresh paint, press board and books.
There’s a bookstore in Columbus that drives me nuts with its haphazardly shelved titles. If one is looking for a specific authors or titles, good luck trying to sift through their system of disorganization. Thankfully here at Walls of Books the shelves are alphabetically arranged, and clearly marked by genre.
At the back of the store is an open area where the Children’s section displays books and educational toys, and Melissa and Doug products. (I have no idea what these are, but apparently they are popular.) There are also a few shelves for middle grade and teen readers.
Walls of Books is a franchise designed to fill the needs of underserved communities, and a “hub for buying and trading used book.” Originated in 2007 by franchiser Shane Gottwals from his community in Georgia, the company has expanded to more than a dozen stores in several states.
On the company web site it states, “Our goal is to consistently offer fair amounts buying and trading used books, create a family-friendly environment, and promote the many benefits of reading.”
Because there is no background music, I easily overhear someone at the counter ask why the store is not open on Sundays. “This is a faith based store,” the proprietor says. “We don’t sell anything inappropriate, and we don’t sell on Sunday.”
I scan the shelves and see multiple copies of books by popular authors such as Barbara Taylor Bradford, John Grisham and Susan Wiggs. There are also several shelves dedicated the Christian fiction and Christian literature. For a literary snob such as myself, I have to dig for a few pieces of gold. On a lower shelf sits a book of Wallace Stevens poems, and scattered throughout the titles I find literary authors Julia Alvarez, Muriel Barbery, and Jeanette Winterson.
While this store is no substitute for the my favorite independent bookshops like Third Place Books in Seattle, it’s nice to know Kroger and Walmart are not the only places in town to buy books. I managed to find a couple of titles I think suit my taste: A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler, and Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand. When I am finished reading them, the proprietor encourages me to sell them back at half price. And he gave me a free book bag!
Walls of Book is open Monday though Saturday, 9:30-6.