The Bookstore That Changed My Life

Josh Hanagarne is the creator of THE WORLD’S STRONGEST LIBRARIAN ($26, Gotham, May 2nd 2013) and is a librarian in Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah.

The sign on the door said Experienced BOOKS. I found the shop while wandering round my new neighborhood after moving to Salt Lake City.

The door opened and a man walking a canine exited. He said, “Go in man, you may undoubtedly go away with something.” This reminded me of the shop in Stephen King’s Needful Issues. However then, books remind me of the whole lot, and every little thing reminds me of books.

Inside, the upper flooring was concerning the width of a large elevator. Books lined the partitions from floor to ceiling, and have been additionally stacked in piled on small tables. One thing brushed in opposition to my legs. A gray cat. One other cat, orange and white, perched on one of many upper shelves, looking both bored and judgmental.

I turned a corner and almost fell into the lap of the elderly man sitting there, reading. He turned his e-book the other way up, set it on the table, and stood.

“I’m Keith Clawson,” he said, extending a hand. He wore a plaid shirt, and khaki pants with suspenders.

“I’m Josh. I like your retailer.”

“Really? Why’s that?” He smiled. He knew why. I have been informed I get glassy-eyed and slack-jawed in bookstores.

At that time, I jerked my head round, flapped my arms a bit, and made a loud noise. “Sorry, I’ve received Tourette Syndrome,” I mentioned. “So whereas I am right here, when it gets quiet, I am going to most likely–“

He held up a hand. “Comply with me and I will show you one thing.”

I adopted him to what turned out to be the L part, which was about three ft away from the chair he’d been sitting in. He took Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn off the shelf and put it in my hand. “Have you read this?”

“No. I’m guessing I ought to?” I opened the cowl to see if the worth was written on the inside cover.

He smiled once more and mentioned, “This one’s on me. Inform me what you suppose subsequent time you’re in.”

“Did you buy one thing?” my spouse mentioned after i walked into our residence.


“Did you steal it?”

I advised her about Mr. Clawson–calling him Keith would by no means really feel proper to me, despite his insistence–and she mentioned, “Well he sounds sweet, but attempt to sneak some cash to him next time.”

The protagonist of Motherless Brooklyn had Tourette Syndrome. Mr. Clawson gave me that guide for me at a time when my condition was worsening and I was dealing with it poorly. It helped me in ways that I’ve by no means been in a position to place into phrases.

From then on, I went to Experienced Books a minimum of as soon as every week. From a commercial standpoint, the shop was tragically calm. However for a reader like me, having access to Mr. Clawson was like attending E-book University. He was simply as insatiable for books as I was, however he’d had a head start of several many years.

Typically I’d say hi and then, if he was engrossed in studying, I might browse by myself. However most days we might simply sit there and talk, typically for an hour. Every time I might try and apologize for my noisy tics, he’s say, “Apologize again and I am kicking you out, pal.” And most days, he would not let me pay for something.

“I just don’t really feel proper,” I might say. “You are running a business here.”

He patted me on the shoulder and stated, “It is rather a lot more than that. However whatever it’s, it’s mine, and I’ll run it the way in which I would like.” Then he shooed me out the door with one other guide.

When I discussed that I had cherished the latest Tom Robbins e book, he sent me dwelling with Riotous Meeting by Tom Sharpe, and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

When i got here in raving about One thing Wicked This manner Comes I left with Geek Love.

When i told him I beloved Alice’s Adventures By The Trying Glass he mentioned I would enjoy Aeschylus. I’ve by no means understood why he drew the connection between the 2.

Sooner or later a lady who I imagine was his wife was there talking with Mr. Clawson. I heard her say that she had seen a e book on the Barnes And Noble down the road, one hundred and one Things To Do With A Cake Mix. She wished it.

I do not remember if I took a book dwelling that day, however I walked straight to Barnes and Noble and bought a replica of that cake combine guide. The subsequent day I went to Skilled Books and, just earlier than I left, dropped it on the desk which held the money register and bank card machine.
He by no means mentioned it, however I hope they used it and tried all a hundred and one ideas.

From then on, at any time when I might go to Experienced Books, I might go away a guide on one of many piles. Sometimes it would be one in every of my own books. Generally I might purchase one thing simply to give to his store. Normally I might simply put one of the books he’d given me back on his shelves.

Sometimes his daughter could be there serving to out. Whenever she was there, it was a relief to truly pay for the books.

Mr. Clawson launched me to Cormac McCarthy and Stanley Elkins and Catch-22.

He quoted from The Velveteen Rabbit when I might ask him if his ailing back was bothering him.

He knew the order of Kurt Vonnegut’s books off the highest of his head.

He once stated I reminded him of Dorothy Parker, whom I’d never heard of. Once i took residence one of her books, I wondered if I might ever be as funny as she was.

Most importantly, he was my first encounter with the calling–I believe he would have agreed with the word–of the passionate bookseller.

Skilled Books is gone now, and Mr. Clawson’s not with us anymore.

However I consider him every time I meet a sharp, dedicated, lovable bookseller. I see his face each time I drive via that neighborhood. Typically, after i end reading something new, I wish that I might ask him what he considered it.

And I would give rather a lot to be able to point out him my own ebook, which talks about so lots of the books he introduced me to.

Most of the time when individuals inform me one thing changed their life, it is onerous to tell if anything has actually modified. However Mr. Clawson and that retailer changed my life. I’m reminded of that reality each time I walk via my very own personal library. I am reminded of it each time a bookseller recommends one thing for me to learn. And now, most days, I am in a position to place the right e-book in the correct individual’s hand whereas I’m working at the library.

Mr. Clawson was right. What he did was much greater than simply running a enterprise.

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