Ode to Bookstore Cafes

If you’re anything like me, this article describing a world tour of bookstore cafes, including Mexico City, Boston, Hong Kong and more, makes you want to pack your bags and hop on a plane, ready to see the world with a bookstore cafe as your new homebase.

I don’t drink coffee, but there’s just something wonderful about a bookstore cafe; not only can you wander the aisles and stumble across something new and potentially life-changing, but you can curl up in a comfortable chair and start reading it, perhaps with a muffin or scone to keep you company. It’s a public space that is welcoming and quiet and centered around books, without the looming menace of overdue fines to haunt you. It’s a space where the odds are high you might find someone else who likes that obscure graphic novel or klezmer band.

My all-time favorite bookstore cafe is Grounds for Thought in Bowling Green, Ohio, where I earned my master’s degree, made some amazing friends, and started dating the boyfriend who is now my husband. Clearly, this was a magical and momentous time in my life, and many of those hours were spent at Grounds with Laurie, one of my dearest friends from that time in my life. We would bring our homework and projects, camp out at a table and work, pausing now and then to drink hot chocolate, argue about the value of theory, or note the entrance or exit of a cute philosophy grad student Laurie had a crush on. From time to time, other friends would join us; it was in a conversation at Grounds that I first heard a gay friend talk about couples who made up a new last name when they decided to commit to each other, which my husband and I decided to do as well. When I would daydream about the future, as I often did in that first year, sometimes I saw myself behind the counter of my own bookstore cafe, in some undetermined location, passing out books and baked goods with both hands and watching them nourish my customers.

I haven’t found anything to replace that here in Baltimore; though there have been some likely candidates from time to time, none have lasted for me. Sometimes I still daydream, not about opening my own, but about happening across the perfect haven, full of aromas and books, in the perfect life, where I have plenty of hours to while away in a bookstore cafe.

Any bookstore cafes to add to the list, or any memories to share?



Filed under Favorites, Pensees on Reading, Uncategorized

9 responses to “Ode to Bookstore Cafes

  1. laurie

    Ahhh…cute philosophy guy. (Oddly, I just thought of him yesterday for some reason and wondered about what an odd choice he was.)

    I miss those hours (and hours and hours) with you at Grounds.

  2. laurie

    I’m tempted to google him but I don’t remember his last name (if I ever knew it).

    As for Grounds, I know they expanded into the law library next door, so they aren’t exactly the same. Those lucky current college students probably don’t have to work as hard to get a table. Of course, they also don’t know the joy of scoring one of only three four-tops against the wall with its own lamp.

    • I don’t even remember his first name, other than that it was something very non-memorable! He will always be CPG to me.

      I hope new Grounds is just as cozy as old Grounds–one of the previous incarnations of their website had hoodies and shirts for sale, and now I will always kick myself for not buying one, because this current website only sells coffee.

      • laurie

        I bought a hoodie while I was still in BG. I think it’s been pushed to the back of the closet, but I’ll have to dig it out.

        You’re making me want to make a pilgrimage to Grounds…

  3. If ever make it up to Madison, WI, you should check out A Room of One’s Own — fantastic selection & a lovely cafe!

  4. Pingback: Bookstore Magic | TRAVELITERATURE

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