Patience, dear readers. I’ll address the headline shortly, but first … I’ve bought but haven’t yet read far more books than I could possibly consume over the course of the calendar year, yet every month I add a dozen more to my overstuffed shelves. Technically I have a rule that for every book I read, I can purchase a new book – and not a moment sooner. But until there’s no more room on my shelves and no more money in my bank account, this is not a rule I tend to enforce.
There are little reminders everywhere – “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” on the coffee table, “The House of Mirth” in my bookbag, “The Dubliners” on my desk at work, “Billy Budd” atop a great teetering pile of to-be-read titles hidden away under my bed. The sight of so many books I’ve acquired but haven’t yet read troubles me to no end. I hope they know I haven’t abandoned them – I’ll get around to them someday soon. I hope they realize it’s not them, it’s me - I’m a sick, sick woman with an incurable case of bibliomania and serious commitment issues.
Naturally I have no business visiting a bookstore, but visit it I do.
Setting the scene
Good Books In The Woods. How I managed to miss this place, which has been around for nearly 15 years, is anyone’s guess. Now that I’m aware of its existence, I can’t not act on that knowledge, or so I convince myself. (Add “impulse control” to my growing list of maladies.)
I visit the bookshop on a sweltering day in early September. The shop is housed in a comfortable old brick home. The very lovely abode sits on a quiet, shaded by-street in Spring. A quick glimpse of its charming exterior and passersby are likely to assume the property is the definition of normal. It’s not.
Venture inside and you’ll discover, as I did, that the dwelling has been remodeled extensively. The rooms of the old house have been thrown into one and divided into little alcoves. Shelves run around the walls, carrying books to the ceiling.
Passing through the store, the general effect becomes more and more fantastic. Towering above and around me are shelves and shelves stuffed with books. Every conceivable nook, cranny and counter is cluttered with books. It’s a dizzying domicile. There’s so much to see. Again and again, I drop to my knees to browse the books on the the bottom shelves before shooting back up, standing on tiptoe, and craning my neck to peruse the titles above, making the whole experience all the more disorienting.
As I meander through the maze of books, I try to to identify what “room” of the home I’m in. More often than not, I don’t have a clue. I lose my way several times. At some point I find myself in the aptly named “Lost Room.” From his perch on a comfortable couch, Bruce, the shop dog, monitors my progress. “Where can I find the fiction section, Bruce?” If he knows, he certainly doesn’t tell me.
The store, which specializes in collectible books and first editions, is 3,461 square feet of nooks, alcoves, labyrinths and warrens. And it plays tricks. On numerous occasions, I think I hit a dead-end only to realize, quite excitedly, and somewhat overwhelmingly, that there are many more books ahead.
What I found when I went
Books fill the whole shop; there are paperback and hardcover books; there are the usual classics, history, and children’s sections, as well as those on more specialized areas like literary criticism, Texana, and geology – there are so many sections and subsections I lost count. One is titled “Books on Books,” another, “Ships + Ship Models.”
And what do I find here, in this bibliophile’s dreamscape? Everything. There are early 20th-century travelogues, glossy ship modeling guide books, fine-bound fiction books, geological studies, advanced reader copies, 19th-century literary magazines, niche cookbooks, 16th-century gospels, and much more. I stumbled across Rachel Ingalls first editions, a signed, hardcover “Cloud Atlas,” enviable Mellvilles, and a stash of literary magazines from the 20s and 30s.
I shopped and snooped around for hours and still didn’t exhaust all the shop’s alcoves and warrens – some of which, I suspect, lead to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia.
What to know before you go
Stuffed with tens of thousands of antiquarian, rare, and well-cared-for used books – 50,000 of them, to be exact – the store is a haven where you can ferret out that certain book (or stack of books) you didn’t know you needed until you saw it. And odds are it could be a collectible copy. If you’re lucky, it might be signed.
A note on prices: In my estimation, this is the sort of place you go to get the used books that will become a cherished part of your collection. Bargain book hounds, yes, the stock is priced to sell and I imagine most books are a good bargain, but you won’t find bottom of the barrel prices here. Many of the books at Good Books In The Woods are hardcovers, early editions, signed copies, collectible classics, and their prices reflect that. That said, there is a small bargain section. All the books there boast a $1.89 price tag.
A first edition “Four Stories” by Rachel Ingalls - $15
A new copy of “Sula” by Toni Morrison - $11.70
A like-new copy of “The Member of the Wedding” by Carson McCullers - $5
Scroll below to take a virtual spin through the store.
Good Books In The Woods, 25915 Oak Ridge Drive, Spring, Texas 77380, (281) 298-2497.
Bibliophiles, what are your favorite bookstores in the Houston area? Share your recommendations in the comments.