I opened the red door, and a little bell rang…
I was seven years old, but I still remember that day. It was early afternoon, and my grandfather decided it was time to buy my very first book.
See, he had this tradition going on with my older brother. Every month, they’d visit the local bookstore and buy a book. As long as my brother read it, my grandfather would pay for it.
I always felt jealous. But, it was my turn!
A Corridor Made of Books
It wasn’t your regular shop. Stuffed between an old warehouse and a coffee shop, it was a slice from the past.
Narrow, yet very long, a small red door and dim lights. You couldn’t fit in. The books were on top of each other, creating walls of paper.
Being a seven year old with an imagination bigger than his stature, I felt I was entering a mysterious place—and I was right in a way.
As I was walking through the corridors, two heads popped up from under a pile of books.
“Hey! There’s the youngest of the family. Welcome!”.
The young, vibrant, and joyful owners of the store.
“Come, I think we have something for you!”
I left my brother and grandfather and followed one of them. He guided me to a deep corner of the store.
“There you go. I reckon you’ll find something you like here” and he left.
Choosing my OWN book for the first time
Surrounded by 100s of dusty books, I started reading the titles.
Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Tolkien, Robert Jordan. Who were all these people?
I picked one and opened it…
It was a “Forgotten Realms” books.
(I can’t remember which one exactly)
I picked up another one…
“The Riftwar Saga” by Raymond E. Feist.
And another one and another one… Before I realized it, a whole hour had passed. I wanted to stay more. I was intoxicated. All these titles, all these worlds waiting for me to explore them.
However, I had questions — lots of them; one of them was particularly hard…
I was so excited. I felt butterflies in my stomach. It was an important decision. I had the genre down, fantasy, but that meant my options were practically endless. While that’s a good thing, I wanted my first book to be special.
At this point, my brother had already picked up what he wanted, so he and my grandfather were sitting with the owners, drinking coffee at a desk under the stairs.
“I don’t know what to choose,” I told them. “There are so many. I just don’t want to pick one I don’t like…”
“Let me help you,” said the owner “I’ve read all of them.”
“Really? All of them.”, I said with my eyes wide open.
“Of course, how else am I supposed to know which ones are good.” He then proceeded to give me a quick run-down of his top 5.
So after 15 minutes of pondering and frustration, I picked one.
(For personal reasons I don’t want to disclose which one)
“I decided,” I said.
“Excellent choice! Proceed to the counter!”
Before paying for it, my grandfather wrote something on the first page. “I hope this is one of many. This is the most important gift you’ll receive. More important than money, clothes, games or whatever. It contains something more than words”.
Then, they wrapped and gave it to me in a red, plastic bag, like groceries.
“See you next month.”
I was there the next day. See, when I got home, I was so excited I read the whole thing in one day.
Once I finished it, I put it right next to my bed. I was already visualizing my small little library.
However, I had to wait a whole month before getting another one…
Still, that didn’t prevent me from visiting the store and spending countless hours rifling through books, trying to choose which one I’d get in a few days.
A Part Of My Childhood
It’s easy to buy a book these days. You are one click away from millions of titles.
However, nothing compares with the ritual of entering a bookstore, without knowing what to get, without being able to read reviews or download them on Kindle.
It’s you and the books…
This habit of one per month continued until I was 15 years old. I still visit the shop when I am in town.
Nothing has changed. I get greeted with the same smile and feel the same way. It’s still stuffed with books, but now I am taller.
Last Christmas, I was visiting family, and I decided to buy them some gifts! Naturally, I visited the shop…
The owners offered me a cup of coffee, and we started talking.
With the corner of my eyes, I noticed a little kid, way back in the same corner I was, reading the titles, bent over trying to grab one.
As he got up, I saw the same smile, the same frustration on his face, and for a few moments, I swear I saw myself, 20 years ago, ready to buy my very first book.
P.S- Although I buy the majority of my books online, I still visit local shops.
How was your first visit to the bookstore? Do you prefer to buy your books online?
About the Author
George Kourakos is an ad-man by day, a writer by night. He is a mathematician with a creative side. Working full time as a copywriter, George wants to explore his creative side by writing about his favorite topics.