ANN ABOUT TOWN: Curiouser and Curiouser

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 2:40 pm
Ann Nichols

I’ve walked past Curious Book Shop thousands of times. (I do mean “thousands of times” because the store has been in East Lansing since the 1970s, when I began my work as a Connoisseur of the City.)  I’ve admired the window displays and stopped to look at the deeply discounted books set out on rolling carts between storefront and sidewalk. I’ve thought about going in, I just never did.

Two days ago, my companion and I pushed open the old, wooden door and found ourselves in a space best described as “timeless.” Shelves of books stretched nearly from floor to ceiling, and a reconnaissance tour of the labyrinthine main floor promised fiction, literature, poetry, (lots and lots of) science fiction, historical fiction, and nautical fiction. There were books about gardening, sociology, animals, and history; I would not have been at all surprised to find Dr. Who, Charles Dickens, or the March Hare lurking, book in hand, at the end of an aisle.

Clearly, we were among kindred spirits. An intense-looking young man knelt on the floor in front of the poetry section reading from a slim volume of Berryman. In the Children’s section, another young man explained earnestly to his girlfriend about the importance of reading a fantasy series in order. “Seriously,” he said, “they won’t make sense otherwise. Oh – and I know what I’m getting you for Christmas!”

At one point I became separated from my companion by a low shelf and a roped-off stairwell. “Hey,” I called across the barriers, “what was the name of that book we were just talking about?” I waited a beat as he thought, and other browsers laughed. They were also people who talked about books, probably a lot. Not only were the spirits kindred, they were young; while we were in the store there were at least ten other customers, all of them apparently under the age of thirty. There is something kind of lovely about members of Generation Y spending Sunday afternoon looking at used and rare books.

There are some new books for sale near the front of the store (Diana Gabaldon caught my eye) but Curious is not a place to go with plans to buy a stack of brand new bestsellers. It is a place to lose track of time, and to browse, beginning with conscious areas of interest and ending up with something you didn’t even know you wanted. There are bargains to be had, but there are also signed volumes, first editions, and rarities.

You can browse in any good bookstore, but the selections and layout of Curious Book Shop made it practically impossible to engage in goal-oriented shopping. I completely lost track of time, and it would appear from factual, chronological evidence that I wandered around for nearly two hours before realizing that I was really hungry and there was no food there.

I did not find the book I hoped to find, but I did find a copy of a book I loved as a child and lost decades ago. I would never have gone looking for it, but there it was—all the more valuable because I could imagine who else had owned it, read it and loved it.

That, in a nutshell, is the Curious experience.


Curious Book Shop is located at 307 East Grand River Avenue, in East Lansing. Their website is here.



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