I love independent bookstores, the eccentric shops with precarious shelves and the strong smell of old books. My girlfriend and I have a favorite one here in Portland on the edge of Mount Tabor. For the most part, it meets the criteria of the ideal used book shop:
- The used book smell.
- Rarely any other customers.
- Books stacked here and there without any seeming rhyme or reason.
- Run by a social misfit somewhere between charmingly awkward and just awkward.
Our favorite bookstore, however, is missing one key element: The cat. Nearly every used bookstore I have spent time in has a cat. You may not always see them–they are elusive creatures, after all–but you will see signs; a food bowl or a little bed choked with tell-tale fur. There are no such signs in our current book shop; it appears to be cat free.
The connection between used books and cats has always been obvious to me: Cats are intelligent creatures, solitary by and large and often eccentric. Much like many used booksellers they don’t really care for your company but understand that you feed them and consequently elect to tolerate you. If cats had to find gainful employment–(and possessed thumbs)–I have no doubt the majority of them would go on to run independent bookshops.
We visit our favorite independent bookshop once a week and always enjoy our time there. Nevertheless, I always get the feeling something is missing, a fluffy tabby sleeping behind a split box of Dickens and Wordsworth or watching us warily from on top of a shelf.
Maybe next time we are there I will subtly leave some pet adoption pamphlets from the Humane Society on the counter.