Most of the time, I shop exclusively at one local bookstore (that has multiple locations), primarily because once I find a shop/restaurant/bar/hiking spot that I love, I don’t feel an overwhelming pressure to stray. I also frequent a handful of the bookstores in Portland, Maine – one conveniently sits next to the library and its sidewalk used book sale always draws me over. However, one bookstore I hadn’t yet visited is now one that sits on top of my list of favorites. This bookstore is Carlson Turner Books and Bookbindery.
Turn westward where Congress St. meets Washington Ave. and you’ll see a row of narrow buildings you can’t help but notice for their whimsy, as well as the cemetery facing them on the opposite side of the road. If you don’t notice the sign above the door for Carlson Turner Antiquarian Bookstore and Bookbindery, the most charming section of sidewalk in the city will beckon you, leading you right through an old door and into what I daresay is the most charming store in the city.
The musty smell fills your nostrils and lungs almost immediately; the quickness of this makes you forget that this is not how everything smells. Faced with tall bookshelves I got lost in the most perfect way.
New novels, literary classics, childhood favorites, rare collections, dictionaries, foreign language texts, maps, and even (eek!) old grammar books which I almost purchased all of. I must have passed through each shelf-hallway three times, each time spotting a title I hadn’t noticed before. A typewriter sat in the back, surrounded by more bookshelves, and although the floor seemed fragile, it supported the bookstore’s contents well. I cannot personally attest to the Bookbindery services, but if I continue re-reading some of my favorite book editions to the point where my shoddy repairs don’t hold up, I’ll be happy to utilize them.
The quiet man behind the counter was working on a project and I didn’t want to disturb him, but he was kind and attentive so in no time (or perhaps, too quickly), I had made my purchase and walked back outside into the real world, hastily making plans to visit this bookstore again.
Carlson Turner Books & Bookbindery
241 Congress St.