I pull up my beach cruiser to the bike rack on the left of the bookstore, crunching on the shell driveway as I pedal backwards to brake. The palm trees sway in the breeze overhead, and the sun catches the shine of my helmet as I toss it in the basket. Armed with my sling bag and a mask, I’m ready for the bookstore.
The bell rings over my head as I push open the door, and the kind-eyed girl greets me from behind the counter. I am immediately enveloped by that warm cozy bookstore smell. Books line the walls and overflow the rolling carts on the floor. I weave through a few shelves of books that somehow all manage to have variations of the same cover—authors I love to read at the beach but are admittedly the Hallmark-movies-of-books.
Rounding a corner, I accidentally kick (and subsequently readjust) a stack of books piled up on the floor. The island bookstore does not have the shelf space to store all their inventory—what a lovely problem to have when it comes to books! Shifting sideways to dodge another brimming shelf, I wiggle around the corner through the mystery section, scanning the rows as I walk.
I pass by the bathroom, the door swung open wide revealing the children’s books stored inside (can you tell this bookstore is innovative with their space?), round a bend, and stumble into a familiar face. Taped to the side of a bookshelf, as always, is a laminated “about the author” sheet. Randy is a local, owns part of our favorite restaurant, and has casually written fifty-nine books, most of them inspired by life on the island. I wonder, not for the first time, how he hasn’t run out of stories to tell.
This bookstore always overwhelms me with options; it’s a seemingly endless well of stories. I find it impossible to choose just one book. Of course, my selection process is not very refined: I tend to go against recommendations and judge a book strictly by its cover. Artwork of a European city? I’m hooked. I push the back door open and head outside, in search of my next read.
The bookstore is broken up into several different buildings, connected by a winding path lined with tropical landscaping. Each small house contains a different genre of literature. For example, my sister’s favorite cheesy romance books are found in building #2, “American Literature.” On one trip to the bookstore, we couldn’t find my dad anywhere. That is, until we checked the last building in the row, “History.” We found him surrounded by books stacked up to his shoulders, flipping through a book about WWII fighter jets.
The island bookstore both inspires me to write and stops me in my tracks. The overflowing shelves are daunting. The bookstore is quite literally bursting with books, authors’ life works hanging in the balance of a discounted price and tourists looking for beach reads. It seems that every story has already been written.
Despite all my wandering, I still choose a book with a European city on the cover, the story inspired by Jane Austen novels and the book so completely my type. As I pass the books on my way to the checkout, I silently thank the authors for continuing to write—continuing to invent and share stories, even if they’d only be heard by a few. There might not be any space for my words on the crowded shelf in the island bookstore just yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for them in the world.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.