Over the summer while living in Philly, I had the chance to alternate between the city’s many distinctive bookshops, where I was able to pick up a wide range of titles.
7/7/18. On the first full weekend of July, I came across Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark at the Barnes and Noble in downtown Philadelphia, located north of Rittenhouse Square. I often cooled down in the store this summer as I waited for friends to reach Center City, but rarely bought anything there. Whenever possible, I supported the city’s indie bookstores, but strangely only B&N had copies of the essay collection and I had expected to read it immediately. The friend I was awaiting that day arrived early, though, and the book instead sat unread inside of a crate until now.
7/21/18. A few weekends later, I stopped at Joseph Fox Bookshop, which is, not coincidentally, also located a couple of blocks north of Rittenhouse Square. The book selection here is hyper-curated, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the shop also carries an impressive range of stationary. The arts section had John Berger’s Understanding a Photograph on display, and wanting to read more writings on art, I picked up a copy along with a biography of Diane Arbus. I then walked toward Old City, where I had a pleasant but expensive coffee date with someone who I never talked to again.
8/10/18. I visited a used bookstore a few blocks west of Penn’s Landing on my last day in Philadelphia, where I donated books I didn’t want to save and used store credit to buy a used but like new copy of Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing. Never before had I entered such a badly organized bookshop, with an ornery and almost belligerent staff; I also felt surprised it hadn’t been shut down, since the single-entranced, poorly ventilated second floor was a flagrant fire hazard. I spent the remainder of the day alone, waiting for my parents and packing up my apartment.