Apr 10, 2012

unicorn books

I have a new favorite place.
About once a year we take a little drive (well, four hours- seems pretty long with the baby) through Maryland to Ocean City to spend a few days at the beach. I usually make the effort to visit Mason Books which is just a few blocks from the beach, but as it was easter sunday this time the shop was closed. I was pretty disappointed. So this time we plotted to stop at a used bookstore I've always seen from the highway. Every other year we've been either too tired to stop, or didn't see the building until it was too late to slow down. This time we used my husband's navigation tool on his iphone to see exactly where were were in relation to the shop so we could find it.

It's in a little town called Trappe. Unicorn Bookshop looks like a small building, but inside it is just amazing. The rooms are simply crammed with books- shelves to the ceiling, cases and stacks on the floor. It's the kind of place you could poke around in for hours and never notice the time going by. It's very well-organized too, which I really appreciated- everywhere in the shop are signs posted telling you just where to find which kinds of books. The first room of interest I found had a wall of children's books and there I came upon my first treasures- a group of old books by Ernest Thompson Seton!

This is an author I have long admired, but seldom had the chance to read- most of his stuff is out of print. And several of the titles here were ones I'd in particular been wanting to get my hands on- Two Little Savages (boys' adventures in the woods) and Lives of the Hunted. I simply snatched them all.
Nearby found a Thornton Burgess- I'm amassing quite a collection of those. I have about fourteen of his books of animal stories, now, and keep looking for more. Then I stepped across the aisle and found myself facing the shelves of nature writing. There was Gerald Durrell! and Hal Borland! and Sally Carrighar! and I simply had to stop before I went even further. I didn't even go into any other rooms, or dig through any of the stacks on the floor (though regretfully I feel certain I could have found more Burgess there) because I knew what was in my hands would already cost me a pretty penny.
When I got to the counter I promptly said: "I love your shop!" and the man smiled at my stack of books and said "I can see that you do." He who rung up my purchase was a little old man with a stooped back but quite spry. He did everything old-school. He wrote down each title and price in a huge ledger book, by hand, humming the titles and numbers quietly to himself. Then he added it up on an adding machine, used a carbon-copy to take my card and wrote the receipt by hand, too. There was a new-looking flatscreen Apple monitor on the book-cluttered desk, but otherwise no sign of modern technology. It was completely charming. The ledger book was held open by a heavy clasp in the figure of a unicorn, too. I came out of that place simply beaming with delight.

I begged my husband to forgive the cost, promised I would not make any more extravagant book purchases this year, and that we must come back next time!

If you visit the bookshop's website, there's a nice little video there. I didn't even notice the clocks when I went in! And if you're so inclined, you can see a few pictures of our little beach vacation here. I probably should have named this post The Splurge, ha ha!


  1. Gorgeous! Well done!

  2. That sounds like a charming bookstore. Enjoy your purchases.

  3. Oh wow! It sounds wonderful -- it sounds like all the little bookstores my family used to visit in Maine when we went there on vacation. Vacation bookstore visits are the best!

  4. It sounds like a fabulous bookstore, and I want to go! I love it when bookstores are rooms upon rooms of books, you never know what's around the corner, and what's waiting for you. I lose myself in those, too. I liked seeing your purchases too, Jeane. Those were some fantastic finds! It's always a little dangerous to go into a bookstore, especially a second-hand one that is done out of love of books. I like the name of it too. Lovely post, Jeane! I look forward to hearing your reviews of your books too in the future!

  5. Yes, used bookstores are pretty dangerous places! I'm probably lucky there's none near my house or I would be broke all the time, ha ha. As it is, the annual library sale keeps my shelves groaning.

    I do so love looking for bookshops when I go on vacation. You never know what you'll find in a new place!


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