As seems typical with a traveling bookstore tour, we end up reading various books while on the road. I had started the tour reading Jodi Picoult’s Spark of Light. But then one gig in, someone bought it as I had laid it down on the table while helping a customer. So I began The Buried Giant, an intense fantasy novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. It immediately drew me in and I actually got a third through before it was packed up with the other books and it took a few days before I could locate it again.
In the meantime, I started Bewilderment by Richard Powers after a recommendation by a customer. Oh my. This is the sort of book I should not be reading while working the bookstore. I would pick it up between customers and immediately become absorbed. Yvetta took a photo of me reading while set up at the Root Cafe in Little Rock. I didn’t even realize she was taking the photo until she showed it to me later. Yes, even sitting in a parking lot next to a very lively cafe, while supposedly tending the bookstore, I can become one with a book. I now keep that book with my suitcase, limiting myself to reading it in the evening.
This is what happens when one is surrounded by wonderful books calling out to be read. And in a setting where keeping track of the book one is reading is not always easy (or desirable). Even Yvetta has fallen prey to having various books going at once. She began the tour reading The Hungarian Who Walked to Heaven: Alexander Csoma De Koros by Edward Fox. This is a small and incredible gem, hard to even find these days for a reasonable price (I sincerely wish someone would re-print it). The true story of a man who walked from Hungary/Romania to the border of India and Tibet searching out the origins of the Magyar language. If you ever come across this book, don’t hesitate for a minute to get it. Then as we were sourcing books at a thrift store, Yvetta found the young adult book, I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda, which seemed to call her name. Being more organized than I am around books, Yvetta did keep I Will Always Write Back in her bag along with The Hungarian Who Walked to Heaven so neither was snatched up by customers or shuffled into boxes with other books, and she reads them at appropriate times. I am amazed by her ability to know exactly where her books are everyday and not get engrossed in these books when we set up.
But then she chanced upon Entrepreneur Extraordinary: The Biography of Tomas Bata by Anthony Cekota. Tomas Bata has a fascinating story. I am patiently waiting for Yvetta to finish that book so I can start it. I’ve had the good fortune to visit Zlin in the Czech Republic, to tour the Zlin Museum of Shoemaking and learn something about Bata’s life. And I will mention another Czech author we carried briefly on this tour, Petr Sis. We had his delightful children’s book, Madlenka. All of Sis’s books are a joy to read and to look at with his beautiful illustrations. Hopefully more will pass through the traveling bookstore in tours to come.
This tour, the American Heartland Tour 2023, is nearly over. We have three more stops in Sheridan WY, White Sulphur Springs MT and Libby MT before reaching home. It has been a wonderful experience despite various bumps along the way. But the people – all those who graciously hosted us and then the customers who make a bookstore tour possible – have been a delight. It is an experience that renews one’s faith in humanity. And the places! I wish that you too find a way to explore this country, stopping along the way for conversations, to hear individuals’ stories, and to eat at places like Rosie’s Diner.