Intrepid former Algonquin intern David Bradley and his trusty sidekick, Lucky the Leprechaun, hit the road this past summer for a tour of (almost all) the coolest, hippest, greatest indie bookstores in the United States. Join us for the journey…
CHICAGO, Illinois — I finally made it. When I first dreamed up this road trip, there were a few stops that served as the main driving force behind the idea. New Orleans was exciting, and I’d always heard great things about San Diego, but Chicago has always been the main target — the crown jewel for the trip of a lifetime. There’s something about this Windy City, resting so delicately on the Lake Michigan shore, that attracts my imagination. Rather than taking the onerous approach of most cities (cough, cough, New York) and trying to forcibly dominate its surroundings, Chicago has reached a more natural symbiosis with its environment, incorporating beach, lake, river, and woodland into its robust, deep-dish culture.
With my overwhelming exuberance, you’d think my first stop would be the beach, the Bean, the Art Institute, Gino’s East; but I had better plans. I took the L to Oak Park and found my way to The Book Table. A curious name, The Book Table. I’ll admit I didn’t quite get it when I was planning my trip (is it just a table that people put books on?), but by the time I stepped in the door, things came into focus. There is a table with books on it, and then there are about ten others. But there’s method behind this madness. The Book Table is designed to introduce you to as many books as possible. Eschewing the spine-out placement of book shelves that encourages scanning more than discovery, The Book Table prefers its books face-out so you can spend less time searching and more time reading. And that’s about the nicest thing any store could do for you.
Owner Jason Smith answered our Algonquin Questionnaire.
We opened on July 26, 2003, so our tenth birthday [was] this Summer.
What is the rarest book you have in the store?
We have an original program from the premiere of L’Age d’Or. It was a surrealist film by Luis Buñuel and the premiere was a major event, but on that night back in 1930, right-wing fascists stormed the stadium and attacked the surrealist crowd. Amid that chaos not a lot of people were concerned with grabbing their programs, so there aren’t very many out there.
What is the rarest non-book item in the store?
We have our very own metal dog sculpture called Rimhound made by the company Yardbirds. (And just like that, Lucky found himself a pet. See photo at left.)
What is your favorite Algonquin book and your favorite book from the summer?
I tell you, our whole staff has fallen in love with Rebecca Lee’s story collection Bobcat. Even those of us who don’t normally like short stories are fond of it. From the summer, I think A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was a major highlight.
Does anybody on the staff have a unique talent that would be fun to reveal?
One of our booksellers is on a roller derby team! And she wants to get an entire team of roller derby booksellers, so if anyone is interested, get in touch with us.
What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at The Book Table?
One customer came in with a list of Bibles that he wanted to buy. When we got to the King James Bible, he picked it up and exclaimed “Oh! I need a Bible by that guy!”
Next stop: The Book Cellar in Chicago, Illinois.
*Note: The Lucky Tour posts are not in real time. David and Lucky have returned from their travels with great tales and many, many books. Stay tuned for more road stories…