I know I mangled a beloved classic with this title. The Tolkein police are mobilizing as we speak, so I’ll try to finish up before they come and break down my door. I just couldn’t help myself. If ever there was a bookstore deserving of this epithet, it’s the one I visited earlier this week. You’ve probably seen me crowing about it before. If you live within a 50 mile radius of me, you might have heard a good bit, too. Like I said, I can’t help myself. I’m a screamer.
So what is this awesome, amazing, fantabulous place called, you might ask? The rest of the world knows it as the Chamblin Bookmine, but I call it heaven.
See that? That right there, my friends, is the Pearly Gates. I know it looks like the entrance to a ramshackle dump crouching in the shadow of the US-17 bridge in
, but looks can be deceiving. And didn’t your mama tell you not to judge a book by its cover? Step through the portal, and you’ll find yourself in the single largest used book store I have ever laid eyes on. Jacksonville, Florida
This place is bursting at the seams with books. The shelves are shoved so close together that two people can’t even walk down the isles shoulder to shoulder. Boxes of unsorted books occupy the rest of the place, jammed into corners and under shelves and any other free space available. I honestly don’t know how these people haven’t run afoul of the fire marshal. It’s a veritable maze. Hell, “veritable” doesn’t even cut it. I’ve gotten turned around inside of that place more times than I can count. It’s definitely not somewhere you want to be if you’re claustrophobic. The architecture is what makes it so confusing, as if the place has been built onto multiple times. The end result is that nothing matches and the ceilings are a bit uneven, but who cares? The place is jam-packed with books.. There are so many books, in fact, that they have had to expand to another location in downtown
as well as a warehouse whose only function is to store books they don’t have room for in their stores. Jacksonville
Right now you might be saying, “So what? Amazon’s got way more books than that, and they deliver them to my front door. No road trip to JAX required. That sounds way better to me.” Oh contraire mi amore! Sure, Amazon and Barnes and Noble and any other sort of online retailer may have more of the recent titles, but if it’s out of print books you’re looking for, there’s no better place than the Chamblin Bookmine. They’ve got books in nearly every single category—mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, general fiction, classics, poetry, short story anthologies, romance, erotica, military, thrillers, action/adventure, horror… and that’s just the fiction. They-ve got a jack-ton (that’s metric, by the way) of non-fiction books, too, and in nearly every conceivable category. What's really impressive is that they've got them painstakingly sorted by author with huge sections devoted to well known series and authors. And the prices—honestly, the prices can’t be beat. I’ve found several titles there for much cheaper than I would have been able to get them on eBay or any other online retailer.
I originally found this place while on a business trip to
almost four years ago. Every year since then I’ve found a way to make it back for my annual pilgrimage. A couple of years ago my wife and I were on our “baby moon” in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, which is an hour away from Jacksonville, and you know damn well I drug my pregnant wife down there to roam around that old labyrinth of a bookshop. This year I stopped by on my way to training in Jacksonville Orlando (funny how all these training events happen in ), and I decided to drive instead of flying just so I could make a pit stop at the Bookmine. It’s my Florida . Mecca
But what about the rest of you? Where is your literary
? And if you know of a book store that surpasses the Chamblin Bookmine in sheer awesomeness, tell me about it! Mecca
I seriously doubt you’ll be able to dethrone the king, but you're welcome to give it a shot.