ser*en*dip*i*ty ~ noun: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also: an instance of this
I love order. My library is divided up by genre... the literature shelves are arranged chronologically. (Yes, I considered doing it by author. Chabon and Chaucer could live nicely beside one another but I prefer to see the evolution of literature at a glance). This website is my new guilty pleasure. And if I could create a card catalogue and make my friends sign out the books they borrow without seeming totally insane, I would.
I love order. But I also love the Owl's Nest.
I can't get enough of Fredericton's sprawling used bookstore. Confine yourself to the front room, where the classics and fiction sections generally abide by alphabetical order, and you might fool yourself into thinking it not so different from any other book store. But keep going. Like Alice down the rabbit hole, things get curiouser and curiouser as the store goes on... and on... I think I'd been going there for well over a year before I discovered the second floor room straight out of Funny Face (complete with rolling ladder but minus Fred Astaire).
While I occasionally make a quick stop with a particular book in mind, the Owl's Nest is best experienced on a Saturday afternoon, preferably rainy, when you have no where else to be. Meandering in and out of rooms, navigating around piles of books, these are the moments that yield the best discoveries. I've come home with favourite childhood classics to pass on to the children in my life and out-of-print books for boys I loved. I've unearthed a long-forgotten volume of James Thurber's memoirs of his New Yorker years and a whimsically illustrated 1951 guide to Paris with a preface by Jean Cocteau. Just today I picked up a 1946 Penguin edition of Shaw's Plays Pleasant; a great find for the iconic Penguin cover design alone.
The Owl's Nest isn't for everyone. Those who don't like dust, boxes or the occasional cat strolling past should probably stick with Chapters. This is not a place designed for efficiency but for exploration. It's a place for people who, every so often, like to let go of order and surrender to serendipity.