“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
– Jorge Luis Borges
Almost every time we go back to Jacksonville, we visit one of my favorite places on earth.
It may not look like much, but Chamblin Bookmine is a magical, magical place. It’s dim, it smells funny, and the aisles look…precarious at best. But if you love reading, and have a good sense of direction, it’s Heaven.
In the novels of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, there is a recurring location called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I’ve now encountered it twice, in “The Shadow of the Wind” and “The Angel’s Game.” Every time I read about it, I think of Chamblin’s. Only, you know, more Spanish. And probably a little less 1970s-tastic.
I believe the Chamblin’s building used to be some kind of marine or boat warehouse, so it’s enormous. Over the years it has expanded in fits and starts, and now it’s a Frankenshop of maze-like corridors, dead ends, and orange carpet.
AND IT’S SO AWESOME.
You simply can’t comprehend the entire space from any one point, because the aisles run floor-to-ceiling and there are stacks of books everywhere.
I realize this sounds like a nightmare to some people. Thankfully, they have installed helpful signs:
Chamblin’s is less than 2 miles from the house where I grew up, and my absolute favorite summer activity as a child was riding my bike to Chamblin’s and spending the day among the stacks. I’d bring a backpack full of books to trade in, and walk out with a backpack full of books to read.
It’s a great place to re-claim books from your young adulthood. If you want to re-read the entire Babysitter’s Club series, or the collected works of Christopher Pike or R.L. Stine, they’re all there.
If you go to Chamblin’s looking for a specific book, you may be disappointed. Alphabetical order is only loosely observed, and the number of categories under which they put books is astounding. But treasures await those who keep an open mind.