I work in a library, which means that I’m well-acquainted with the heady smell of aged dust on aged books. This smell gives some people headaches, but it makes me smile. I smile because that scent means that I’m in a place of endless magic and opportunity. Not Hogwarts, my friends; this splendid aroma can be found in your local San Marco Bookstore.
We humans love books. If we don’t, we haven’t read very much. We love books because they force us to realize the sheer power of words. A book doesn’t do anything, really—it just allows us to hold it. At the same time, though, it pulls us into a whole new world. *Cue Aladdin music.* We forget about the fact that we can’t fly or meet Michelangelo or demonstrate awesome Kung-Fu skills. Normalcy and the laws of gravity are irrelevant when reading a book. The San Marco Bookstore is one of the places in the world that allows us become whoever we feel like becoming in that moment.
What makes this bookstore extra great is the owners. Desiree Bailey and her parents Jan and Mike Molyneaux have owned the bookstore for 15 of its 40 years of existence. Desiree truly loves being in San Marco and believes that it is the people who come to the square who have kept them in business. The family has no background in books other than reading, but something crazy happened: 15 years ago, they saw that the bookstore was for sale. 30 days later, the bookstore was theirs.
The bookstore is small, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it can’t overwhelm you. You might get lost in the classic children’s tales from earlier centuries, or the cooking books that remind you that there’s still time to perfect your inner chef before Thanksgiving. This quaint place of over 25,000 books has genres ranging from Art to Science Fiction to Christian to some local Jacksonville goodies. Whether you’re a classics nerd or looking for something on planes, trains, and automobiles, the bookstore is bound to have it. And in case you’re one of those weird humans who doesn’t enjoy reading, you can peruse the stationery or toys. You’d probably enjoy the toys more, since those don’t have any words on them. But the stationery in this bookstore is wonderful.
My favorite section is the classics. The rich and beautiful bindings of the many volumes make me forget that we don’t currently live in a world where monks are clustered in dark rooms, pouring over ancient scrolls and transcribing the yellowed documents into Latin. That’s a pretty magical feeling that the San Marco Bookstore can evoke.
You can visit the bookstore’s website here for more information on their inventory and services. Take it from me, a fellow master of book smells, that the bookstore is definitely worth your time. So take a break from the 21stcentury and step into the past at your local San Marco Bookstore.
Photography by Amanda Lenhardt