I recently had a conversation with a friend’s young grandsons, while visiting an independent bookstore to celebrate the launch of a fellow writer’s novel. One of the boys commented that, except for Chapters-Indigo, he’d never been in a bookshop. The children were impressed by the variety of available books and the general ambience of the space.

Their wonderment took me back to remembrances of my childhood book encounters. I recall my family owning a small selection of Dr. Zeus books, Green Eggs and Ham being my favourite, and a few Golden Story Books. As was common then, my parents, on their modest income, didn’t own adult fiction books.

I lived in a rural area through which a two-lane highway passed. Opposite my childhood home was a long treed-lane at the end of which sat the home of Mr. Sanders. He was a bald round-bellied replica of Colonel Sanders of the famed Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and, since the death of his wife, lived alone in their farmhouse with a black and white pug named Sandy. Mr. Sander’s was the first floor-to-ceiling bookshelves I’d ever seen lining the walls of someone’s home. It was inconceivable to me that so many books could be in one place outside of a library. Although, his collection was largely comprised of non-fiction books and I was only in primary school at the time, I was dazzled. I still remember the musty smell that rose off the pages of his old editions. At first my mother would walk me across the road, but I think later I began sneaking to Mr. Sander’s house by myself. I recall pointing out the books I’d like to look at. He’d pull them, then I’d lie on my stomach across a braided mat and flip through the pages until my mother knocked on the door and hauled me home.

Antique book collecting is a relatively new passion for me. I foster old editions until one day, younger hands take them over. While books are so easily accessible now, I’ve never lost my sense of wonder and romance at book-filled shelves, whether in a shop, library or home.

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