As a child, I was an avid reader and spent countless hours lost in the pages of my favorite book series, "Sweet Valley High" by Francine Pascal. The books chronicle the lives of identical blond-haired, blue-eyed twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, who live in the fictional Sweet Valley, California, a suburb near Los Angeles. I must have read each one at least twice as I collected the books over the years. Unfortunately, I lost track of them as I grew older, and they faded from my memory. Recently, I stumbled upon a reference to the series online, and I felt a rush of nostalgia. I have three daughters of my own, and I decided I wanted to collect them again and share them with my girls in hopes at least one of them will be as cheesy as I am and enjoy the series as much as I did. Admittedly, I also wanted to see them lining my bookshelf in my library.
I immediately hopped online, and with a quick "Google" search, there were many purchasing options. However, the books, now considered "vintage," averaged about $10 apiece, and I would have to wait for them to be shipped. I immediately recognized that collecting the complete set of approximately 181 would be lengthy and costly.
Lacking patience, I racked my brain for a more instant option. Maybe Goodwill? I had seen them there before, but rarely. It's not as costly, but it's still lengthy.
Then, I remembered the small local bookstore in Batesville called "The Bookshelf," which has a vast book collection and was about 20 minutes from my house. If any place had them, they would, I thought. I was happy to believe there was a possibility of a local option to purchase the books. I picked up my phone and decided to give them a quick call. I was pleasantly surprised there was no waiting to get through an automated recording. The phone rang once, and a friendly voice greeted me and confirmed they had books from the series there. I couldn't believe my good fortune and headed straight over.
Walking into the store, I was immediately greeted with the warm scent of old books and the sound of the wooden floorboards creaking beneath my feet. The store was a hidden gem jam-packed with books from floor to ceiling. For an avid reader, it's like a little slice of heaven right here on Earth. I began to let my eyes scan the titles but then remembered I needed to focus on why I came.
I turned to the counter, half hidden by books, and explained to the woman behind the counter I was the one who had just called asking about the Sweet Valley High books. I smiled sheepishly as I thought what she must be thinking of this 40-year-old who rushed over as if the books were flying off the shelves. She smiled warmly and hopped up to lead me through the maze of books. As we weaved in and out of the rows of books, I wondered if I could find my way back to the counter on my own. We arrived at a secluded corner of the store with a narrow stairway that led to another floor with books as far as the eye could see. When we reached the top of the stairs, she knowingly walked straight to a row of books and pointed to the series on the bottom shelf. I stared in awe that with over 100,000 books in the store, she knew exactly where "mine" was. Giving me a big smile and an "Enjoy," she excused herself and left me to browse and reminisce leisurely.
It was quiet and peaceful, as I was the only one upstairs at the time with the piles of books. I sat Indian style on the floor as the Sweet Valley books were on the bottom shelf, enjoying the ambiance the soft lighting added as I marveled at the approximately 50 books in front of me: A mix of all the Sweet Valley series beyond the original Sweet Valley High series (kids, twins, senior year). As I held the books in my hands, flipping through the pages, I felt the nostalgia wash over me. For a second, I was a 7th grader at Brookville Middle School again, and my biggest worry was how I looked in my new prescription eyeglasses. A glance at my watch riveted me out of my stroll down memory lane, as I needed to leave within the next 10 minutes to pick up my 7th grader from school. I couldn't wait to show her the books. I selected a few and returned the rest the way I found them.
I proudly made my way down the stairs with the books clutched in my arms and found my way to the counter after making a wrong turn and finding myself at a dead end of books twice. As I made my purchase I thanked the owner, grateful to have found them so quickly and so close to home. The books at The Bookshelf are half off the original price, making the books I selected roughly two dollars or less a piece, not the ten-dollar price I found online.
What struck me most about my experience at the local bookstore was the personal touch. She took the time to help me find what I was looking for, and even though the interaction was brief, it was genuine with someone who shared my love for books.
It's easy to get lost in the convenience of online shopping, but nothing can replace the experience of browsing through a physical bookstore. Google doesn't share the owner's passion for books and her willingness to help me find what I was looking for. I was reminded the local bookstore in my area is a true treasure, a place where you can get lost in the stories around you. I left that day grateful for the experience and a newfound appreciation for supporting local businesses. I can't wait to go back and enjoy the quiet escape time and time again as I continue to collect the series.
Since 1980, The Bookshelf has provided new and used books to readers in the community. The full-service bookstore is located at 101 N Walnut St. in Batesville, just one block from the library. The website states, "You'll find a friendly staff that many have dubbed the 'Bookshelf Ladies.' We are 'Book Mind Readers,' using our literary knowledge to help pick out a book you'll love just by asking about the last one you've read!
Our books are divided by genres and include over 100,000 used books on two floors. We have thousands of new books, including the latest releases from the publishers. As soon as a new book comes out, we have it in stock for you to buy. If we run out of a certain title you want, we can always special order it for overnight delivery directly to your home or our store for your convenience. We know weeks in advance when new books are coming out, and we offer a sign-up sheet so you can pre-order anticipated titles that might be hard to find on the shelf."
For more information, call the bookstore at (812) 934-5800, email the [email protected], or visit its website at bookshelfbatesville.com