Wednesday, December 8, 2010

#79: Idle Hours Bookshop

Hidden in plain sight.  Miniature.  Expansive.  Winding.  Towering.  The confusion of a maze on top of the hazy familiarity of childhood memories.  Cozily mysterious.  Hushed, dusty over-stimulation.  So quiet that you can barely hear your footsteps over Steinback, Hansberry, Vonnegut, Conrad, and Stein shouting in your head.  There's something beautiful about small spaces that overflow with ideas - whether they're captured on pages or not.

My sentimental side swells up and explodes when I walk into one of those perfectly cluttered used bookstores - stacks upon stacks next to stacks - of - books books books.  The first time I visited Idle Hours Bookshop during a quick lunch hour about 7 or 8 months ago, I got that familiar used bookshop feeling - geeze you know, that progression of curious&timid&hesitant when combined with your bookishly adventurous side - that feeling you get when you find a bookshop where you don't have the slightest clue where anything is and most likely, no one does - except perhaps the graying shopkeeper quietly perched behind the counter.  You pick a shelf completely at random and just begin reading titles until you get comfortable enough to sincerely search for those books you might actually buy (which in my case could be on any shelf with Beat lit, American political history, any WEB DuBois, Parisian travel guides, Chicago urban planning stuffs, blah blah blah).  Interestingly, finding your way around the shop isn't the goal at all.  I sort of hope the books change their location every time I leave.

The tall shelves in Idle Hours have little paper signs/clues as to which sort of book you can expect to find upon them, yet they don't even begin to prepare you for the bizarre mix of books that can only be amassed after years and years of book-loving&selling&collecting.

It's poetically nestled right in the middle of downtown on Michigan Street and (here's the kicker) conveniently located next to Club Fever.  Some great literary master of irony and juxtaposition must have placed this bookish gem right there.

Location: 212 South Michigan Street
Hours: 10 am to 3 pm, Monday through Saturday

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