About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All Aboard!

Reading Books
27 S. Squires Street
Rockford, MI 49341

Take a ride on the Reading! No, I'm not talking about the Reading Railroad of Monopoly fame. To be sure, this Reading Railroad sits on iron rails, and yes, it has train cars. But this particular Reading Railroad has books, and a ticket to browse is free. This railroad is a nostalgic used bookstore called Reading Books. My traveling companion on this one-of-a-kind trip was my writer friend Tim. Our conductor, somewhat under the weather, but nonetheless friendly and accommodating was owner, Kim VerHage. Step aboard Reading Books for a unique adventure in train travel.

Nestled alongside the White Pine Hiking trail in the Squires Street Shopping area of Rockford, MI, the 1920's era train cars fit comfortably into this neighborhood of galleries, gift shops, and trendy restaurants. The train began its life as a bookstore in 1985. Then in 1988 a neighboring building was purchased and later joined to the train. This attached building now provides the main entrance to the bookstore as well as additional floorspace for books including a children's section and a separate nook for young adult titles.

Zelda takes a break.
In another nook, sleeping comfortably on a small ottoman, was one of the resident cats, Zelda. Another more gregarious cat, Dickens, was our constant companion, following us around the store and at one point, even jumping up and riding around on my shoulder to assist me in my browsing. Before the cats, however, there was a resident baby in the store. Kim explained that in the early days when her son Scott was just a baby, there was a playpen set up in the center aisle along with a rocking chair. Apparently, in addition to shopping for books, some of the customers enjoyed rocking the baby. The playpen is long gone now, but Scott is still around helping his mom in the shop.

After a quick perusal of this building, we made our way up a short flight of stairs to the actual passenger car of this Reading Railroad. All but two of the seats are gone, replaced by bookshelves running the length of the car and housing a variety of paperbacks and hardcover volumes neatly arranged on wooden bookshelves. I found it fitting that this coach, once perhaps the purveyor of glamor and excitement for countless passengers enroute to heady destinations, was now home to romance and adventure on the printed page. What else could complete this railroad ambience but a charming caboose, currently used for storage. This nostalgic setting also provides a favorite backdrop for high school senior pictures, for which Kim says she gets many requests each year.

Shoppers can browse just under 100,000 available volumes in the store, and Reading Books carries a database of 40,000 titles available on the store website. Knowing that I enjoy historical fiction, when my friend Tim spotted two Herman Wouk paperbacks, he pulled them off the shelf and handed them to me. That was all the suggestion I needed. I purchased The Winds of War and War and Rememberance.  When I read them, I will be pleasantly reminded of my historic trip on the Reading Books railroad.

Dickens guards my book selections.
The appeal of this unique store is summed up nicely on one of the store bookmarks: "Take a ride on The Reading! For an express trip to anywhere! We sell dreams, romance, confidence, and peace-of-mind. Ride the range, slay a dragon, bake a cake, solve a murder! It's all possible when you take a ride on The Reading."


Tim said...

What an awesome concept and store!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite stores to shop. -Matt