Saturday, September 08, 2007

My Kinda Place ... Callan Books of Stratford !!

I am a book fan ... or a book fiend ... take your pick.

I have surrounded myself, both figuratively and literally with books ... I can even remember the day my collection started ... I was about 10 and The Rev. Ross Cumming gave me a copy of "In the Days of the Canada Company" by sisters Robina Lizars and Kathleen MacFarlane. ... That day Ross set me off on a biblio-philic journey that continues to this day ...

While my collection pales in comparison to the vast collection Ross' acquired in his life time, mine has many gems that hold special meaning to me, whether or not they are valuable to another collector.

I've spent many happy hours combing through bookstores across Canada looking for new and used volumes to add to my ever growing library.

I have favourite bookstores across this land, but none has ever supplanted the place in my heart held by John Callan and his tiny back street store, aptly named "Callan Books" on York Street, over looking the Avon River in Stratford.

Since it first opened, Callan books and its proprietor have been counted amongst my cluster of friends. One of my earliest memories of John and his store comes from the time when I went off to University and came home one weekend looking for a book to read. I walked into John's tiny store and said - "I need something to read, what would you recommend ..."

John thought for a moment then offered a selection ... I was hooked ... I unfortunately don't remember the first book ... but I remember many of the choices he offered - none of which EVER disappointed me. Every trip home from University, from work, from life elsewhere has had me walk back into Callan Books at some point and say the words - "John, I need something to read, what would you recommend ..." And John places in my hand a literary gem !!!

It was John who whetted my appetite for Canadian Literature. He introduced me to the likes of Timothy Findlay, Mordecai Richler and Nino Ricci among others... his suggested volumes have NEVER been wrong. He always offered a book that was exactly what I needed in that moment. And for that I am very thankful.

Over the years I have compared the selection, the service and the ambiance of EVERY book store I've entered to the tiny back street location of Callan Books ... and almost every book store has been found wanting ... Such is the mystique of Callan Books over me and my literary and biblio-philic tastes.

Last week before I left Stratford I stopped by Callan books for one last visit for the road and said the familiar words - "John I need something to read, what would you recommend ..."

John offered to me a number of books ... remarkably, several of the volumes are ones that had been recommended to me by fellow blogger Katie from over at "At the Half Note", or were books I'd already read thanks to our local library ... but then he suggested a couple of other authors, that he noted "are my favourites", and offered a couple of paper backs that I hadn't read but had heard others speak of ...

In short, once again, in my favourite book store my request for something to read was rewarded with a number of literary gems, and I left feeling reconnected to an important piece of my life ... the past and the present came together in a gift of serenity ... Thanks John, not only for this week's offerings, but for your business, your literary taste and most of all for your friendship.

Oh, and by the way ... the picture here is NOT Callan Books ... Callan Books is much neater and tidier place than the bookstore pictured above and a fraction of the size too !! ... though I must confess the bookstore above would be a place I would LOVE to go and hang out in ... THAT'S what a USED bookstore is supposed to look like !!!!

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