I’m a voracious reader, a book lover from my earliest years, and I particularly like to read mysteries. But… I am not really an eBook kind of gal. I understand people love their Kindles and other eReaders, but it’s not my favorite way of consuming fiction. I like to hold a book in my hot little hands, stretch out on the couch, and snack on things that are bad for me while I get lost in a novel.
Amazingly enough, in Portugal, most of the books are in—get this!—Portuguese! I currently have one Raymond Chandler novel in Portuguese that I am struggling with. So far, I have figured out that it takes place in California and there’s something about a woman and a lake. (Can you guess which Chandler I’m reading?) So, not easy reading for me. I love to zippity-doo-dah through books. I read for pleasure, not for a challenge.
I haunt the local charity shops for books. One shop in particular has their books well organized (alphabetically by author) and I can get ten paperbacks for a Euro. They have so many books they just want to clear them out. The problem is that many of the books are/were popular reads and I have read at least half of them. I also lean towards the same authors and I sometimes end up buying a book I’ve already read, but at ten cents a pop, I’m okay with rereading.
My friends, John and Catherine, along with their sweet son Thomas, took me for the ultimate book lover outing last week. We drove from Tavira to the town of Carvoeiro, a cute little tourist town about an hour away. The main drag is one way going in and it is lined with shops and restaurants. There’s a small beach at the bottom of town (and an Irish pub!) and some rather steep hills that create dramatic backgrounds.
Of course, I didn’t take any pictures of that. That would have been the thinking thing to do! And I was NOT THINKING CLEARLY because our first stop in town was the Algarve Book Cellar. If you are a book lover, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. However, if you are a book lover and have OCD, you will know that heaven and hell exist in one location.
The owner, Raymond Compton, is a fit 81-year-old who runs the daily risk of dying under an avalanche of inventory. He estimates he has between 300,000 and 400,000 books (plus DVDs and miscellaneous stuff) in his shop. He opened the business in 2002 and just marked his 20 year anniversary. Raymond is a book lover and voracious reader: He started his shop with 20,000 books he brought with him from England and it grew from there.
I was like a kid in a candy store. Well, if a candy store had candy piled up in the aisles and on every shelf and on every available flat surface. But there was a method to the madness and the books on the shelves themselves were organized pretty much by genre and then alphabetically by author. The problem was actually getting to the shelf. I still managed to find so many books that I could no longer hold them in my arms. Fortunately, I had my Trader Joe’s shopping bag with me, so I filled it and just unloaded it when it came time to pay.
I made my way back to the front of the store and found the owner behind several piles of books that covered the checkout counter. There was no room to put the books on the actual counter, so I just handed them over and he put them on the chair he had been occupying. It’s an all-cash business which makes sense—everything else in there is a fire hazard; the profits might as well be, too.
The Algarve Book Cellar is a must visit if you love books. He has a wide range of books in English, as well as Portuguese, German, French, Scandinavian, and Dutch. In addition to all the paperbacks, he has some antique books that will catch a collector’s eye (but you won’t pull one over on him—he knows his books). There are also CDs, board games, and puzzles.
And, if you’ve ever entertained the idea of running a bookshop, the business is for sale. Raymond says at 81 (and a half!) he is ready to retire. But he’d love to see the new owner carry out his plans for expansion. It seems he needs a just wee bit more room to accommodate his inventory. Go figure.