Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book People Austin


I've been back a full year in Austin and only now went to what used to be my favorite bookstore: Book People, on 6th and Lamar. I think lack of a car was psychologically holding me back. Plus I've not yet had a lot of extra money to spend on books (other than steep discounts that I've found on Amazon, et al.)

Well, a milestone birthday of my mom's is coming up, and this year, unlike last, I couldn't just get her a gift certificate that I ordered online and tell her, "Sorry I couldn't go shopping; I don't have a car!" While it's still true that I don't have a car, milestone birthdays call for more than just a gift certificate!

But where to get a gift? I know a bus route to a mall, but what would I find there -- a shirt or a vase or something?? Book People, my old haunt, was a good idea -- aside from a vast collection of books, they also have a wide variety of interesting-but-not-horribly-expensive gift items (arty umbrellas, candles, quirky dolls/games, Texana/Austiana(?), plus unique cards, international magazines, etc.

I decided to consult the Austin Capital Metro Trip Finder -- the same bus that stops outside my door and takes me within a couple of blocks of the downtown library also stops 3/4 of a mile from Book People! Yup -- I could walk that!

I love Book People, starting with the pleasant (but not overpowering) incense smell that greets you when you walk in. (Since being a teen, I've always associated the smell of incense with a "cool" place featuring off-the-beaten-path things!) The second I stepped in the door after years away, I remembered how much I'd always liked, and felt welcomed by, that smell!

For the 3 years that I was in New York, I'd gone to the famous Strand bookstore in the Union Square area several times--excellent selection of used and new books, but... a madhouse to shop in! What I mainly was looking for there were books about New York, so every time I went there, I went straight to that section; browsing, on the other hand, was kind of a hassle -- just too crowded to relax and take your time exploring. One old-time New Yorker that I once worked with told me there used to be dozens and dozens of little bookstores lining the streets around Union Square in the '70s and '80s and even early '90s -- unfortunately long since closed once I got there in 2007.

Austin's Book People is a store in what I gather is the "old New York City" vein -- plenty of weird stuff, plenty of "secret" nooks for settling in and looking over books at your leisure. Plus, I've always loved the "Esoterica" section upstairs, with its candles, incense, et al. And no crowds! I went on a weekday, around noon -- hardly anyone was there.

Yes, I did find my mom some interesting things that were a bit more personal than a gift certificate. And, selfishly but cheaply, got ME my favorite incense that I'd been without for at least 4 years and had forgotten that I loved so: Escential Essences -- "Tibetan Musk" and "Energy"! ("Sold as curio only, no magical effects are guaranteed.") A lot of incense just smells smoky and patchouli-ish, but this stuff is really nice! (And, despite its "no magical effects" claim, it did magically dissipate the nasty motel-room-cigarette-smoke odor that seemed to have taken over my one-room apartment because of all my smoking in it! Proof positive: My finicky non-smoking mother, who always comments on the cigarette-smell in my apartment when she picks me up to go swimming over at her place, actually wondered why my apartment smelled good!) :)

And then... I also found the pictured "Mildred Pierced" card! Any place with random Joan references is definitely a place for me.

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