[The Allure of Old Books]

Today dawned bright and early (8:30 a.m. is early for me, at least), and we set off for downtown Chicago in good spirits. Today, after all, was the day we strolled through the Printers Row Lit Fest, searching for that perfect purchase. Today, my dear readers, we went book shopping.

Now, I know not everyone is as gung-ho about books as I am, but that’s perfectly fine. I’m secure in my nerdy obsession, and I’m perfectly happy to browse dusty bookshelves for hours in search of that long-overlooked treasure. This time, however, there were no dusty shelves to browse. Instead, the booksellers came to us, and set up their wares in tents (we did get lucky in that the weather was absolutely gorgeous — 70 degrees with a breeze and partial cloud cover).

There were so many tents and booths to choose from. It was almost overwhelming. But we started at the top, noting booths we’d like to browse further on the return journey, and then walked all the way to the end before the serious searching began.

Books weren’t the only things for sale. Some booths displayed handmade leather satchels and leather-bound journals (believe me, I was seriously tempted by both), and another presented handmade pens made from recovered woods. The pens (made by Allegory Handcrafted Goods) were beautiful, but a bit out of my price range. Not to mention, I still have so many pens that I still have to use up before I can buy more. And some vendors displayed posters, prints, maps and other wall art as well.

We took our time browsing, and stopped for lunch at a Thai restaurant right next to the fest (which had closed down several city blocks to make room for the tents in the middle of the street). The food was good, although I regret that my stomach could only contain half of my plate.

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After finishing as much Thai as possible, it was back to browsing. There were beautiful old books (and what seemed like the entire Franklin Library spread through multiple booths), first editions, and even some hundred-year-old books mixed in among the used trade fiction. So I nabbed a beautiful copy of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and a few other titles, besides.

We had originally planned on heading over to Navy Pier after the Lit Fest, but due to both navigational issues (downtown Chicago is apparently almost always under construction) and a lack of parking spaces (there was a Blues Festival going on — and it’s pretty popular), that plan fell through. So we headed back home again.

But we did have a backup plan — dinner at Gino’s East. True Chicago-style deep dish pizza, folks. And boy, it did live up to the hype (even if Darell did give me a hard time for ordering lots of vegetables on my half).

Comfortably full, we decided to sack out on the couch at home and pop in “Saving Private Ryan” and chat. Darell’s a military history fan, so I actually learned a few tidbits about WWII that weren’t covered in my history books (that I can remember, that is). For instance, plastic was invented at that time, and it was a military secret that soldiers wrapped their guns in plastic to keep them dry. And reading strategy maps was a two-part process — the moves were written on a thin sheet of clear plastic instead of the paper, and kept separate from the map to prevent enemy soldiers from knowing troop movements. Pretty neat, right?

The night wrapped up nicely, and it was sad to realize that I would be heading back the next day. But unfortunately I did have to get back to work at some point.

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One thought on “[The Allure of Old Books]

  1. Thanks Kit, we always enjoy your posts! You mentioned a couple of my favorite books/movies…The Hobbit & Saving Private Ryan. Enjoy your time in Chicago!

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