Ask me for my favorite book lovers haunt -- a place to enjoy reading a book, or a place to browse/buy books. I can rattle off several in the various metropolises I have called home. For a far-afield example, after picking up a title at Kenny's Bookshop, one might need to head over to Banana Phoblacht to escape Galway's gales and indulge in one of the best hot chocolates I've had in my life.
I just learned that one such haven for books (in another one of my former homes) has closed. Candida's World of Books shut its doors this February. Though I learned of its demise some six months after the fact, I still felt a great sense of loss. This bookstore was a gem.
Candida's was a half a block away from my workplace in Washington, DC. I spent many a lunch break and a good chunk of my paycheck there. After toiling away (at a place where we unabashedly created as much drama off stage as we put on stage), it was nice to have a place like this to decompress from a stressful day. I liked my job a lot, but having Candida's as a nearby crutch made it livable.
Candida's was truly a World of Books. It could have been described as a travel bookstore, but that wouldn't be quite accurate. Travelogues, maps and guidebooks were offered in abundance. It was a place to stop in if you wanted to pick up a a replacement copy of 501 Russian Verbs along with a photo journal of Thailand, an introduction to South African diamond mining, a novel written in Portuguese, Italian erotica, a shiny new copy of The Master and Margarita, a children's book about passports, and a hitchhiker's account of his journey from Bratislava to Bucharest.
Candida and her staff were extremely knowledgeable, and could provide really excellent recommendations. Say you're a big Haruki Murakami fan, but you're in the mood for a classic. Candida's staff might pluck the Japanese classic Wild Geese by Ogai Mori from the shelf. I've seldom had bookshops that have come up with suggestions so quickly and so reliably.
I have always loved to travel (perhaps more than I love books or, dare I say it, theatre) and I've kept a list of places I would like to visit since I was a little girl. Iran has been on that list for many, many years, despite the fact that as an American I am supposed to believe that I will be burned at the stake upon entering the country. (Lies!) At the time I was frequenting Candida's, I was also reading up on Iran. Reading Lolita in Tehran was a relatively new and popular title at the time, and I came into Candida's one day complaining that I found it to be a disappointment. Candida of course had the perfect suggestion: Persepolis and Persepolis 2.
I began to read the first one on the ride home on the Metro. I lived at the end of the line, so I had a lengthy trip home. I finished the book, unaware that the entire train had disembarked. I sat alone sobbing for this sad-yet-affirming book had stirred me so much. A conductor finally came through and had to ask me to leave.
By the time I left the train, I had missed my bus, and I had over a 90 minute wait for the next one. This gave me more than enough time to read the second. I cried the whole bus ride home. Over the next week, I re-read this pair of books at least a dozen of times.
After my introduction to Persepolis,** I ditched the Iran phase and went through a graphic novels phase. I read all the big titles of the genre. Like many others, I'm not particularly fond of the term graphic novel, and it's true that this list isn't solely graphic novels. Ergo...
The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey
Y: The Last Man #01 by Pia Guerra and Brian K. Vaughan
Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir by Graham Roumieu***
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi
Blankets by Craig Thompson
*Buy local and/or support the little guy!
**No, I have not seen the Persepolis movie. Yes, I would very much like to see it, so please invite me over to watch it already.
***If you haven't returned the Bigfoot book because you're still laughing, I understand. However, as a fee for having absconded with my book for so long, the courteous thing to do is to return my book along with its BRAND NEW SEQUEL, Bigfoot: I Not Dead.