A simple white poster with black typography boldly saying “Bookstop Used Book Sale” greeted me as I came round the corner. And with those few words, I turned left to walk in – what I considered a necessary detour before getting to where I was originally going. Used books for sale at Bookstop? That was worth investigating.
The entire back wall of the store, from floor to ceiling, wooden shelves packed with every kind of work of fiction imaginable. The attendant simply stated that they were looking to get rid of all the used books. So the sale is on for as long as the books are there. And ends when they end.
I must confess, I have no titles to share with you. The soft sounds of jazz coming through the overhead stereo had a big part to play in it. They lulled my senses and I found myself casually browsing the shelves, picking up an odd title here and there, putting it back in it’s place in the stack. I made my way all the way to the end of the wall and halfway back again before pulling myself away from the music bookshelf.
(I do have the price range for you though, the copies I picked up read Ksh200, Ksh250, Ksh300, Ksh400 and Ksh500. And as far as I could tell, you can expect that the more recent the book, the higher the asking price and vice versa.)
For those unfamiliar with Bookstop or in case you haven’t visited in a while, i’d like to encourage you to head on over there and have a look. Find yourself a good read (…or just listen to some great jazz music).
She was a dancer. A street performer. Yet here she was, seated in a tech hub, on the top floor of a building in a city which she hadn’t even known existed a week before. Surrounded by strangers, people she hardly knew – and in all honesty, barely liked. People that she had actually committed to work with for the next three months!
How in the world had she gotten herself mixed up with this crowd? What in the world was a street dancing New Yorker doing in Nairobi!?
The next time you pass by the University of Nairobi, Main Campus do me a favor and stop by the bookshop.
[You see, i’m hoping they’ll put the little penguins back on the shelf at the same incredible student price I enjoyed a couple of years ago. And as long as we’re there, we might as well re-arrange the place and do a little bit of re-decorating.]
Ask where the English Literature section is. Go have a look and if you’re unable to find it go back to the man who assisted you and clarify that no, it’s not African Oral Literature that you were looking for but rather Classic English Literature. When he shakes his head in apology and tells you that they no longer stock them, that’s your cue to look plaintively into his eyes and with a disappointed tone remark how much you enjoyed the books and although you haven’t been there in a while, were looking forward to buying one or two today. Complete this lament with a sigh.
[Gentlemen, you will of course need an alternative course of action – earnest instead of plaintive and assertive rather than disappointed, I believe?]
This next step is going to need a bit of expert maneuvering and one level up in acting skills. You’ll need to be at the center of the bookshop floor to pull it off, or at the very least at the point at which the ceiling opens up again beyond the lower level of the ground floor.
Look up and act surprised. [This shouldn’t be hard to do, after-all, other than in a cathedral, where do you get such magnificent floor to ceiling windows?] Turn your attention to opposite side.
“Are there are more books up there?” you’ll ask wonderingly, pointing to the 2nd floor.
Answer notwithstanding, promptly jump in and give your thoughts on what a great space that would make for a reading lounge – in addition to the bookshop. And what a luxury it would be to buy a book and have the option to sit upstairs quietly sipping coffee after class or in-between lectures. Then look at him and firmly state “You should think about it!” Affirm these words with action and so continue by adding, “Does the bookshop take feedback?” write this suggestion down (don’t forget the request for a return of the Penguin Popular Classics collection) and drop it in their customer feedback box. And then walk out. Past that bronze life-sized statue of Mohandas Ghandi, and back out into a bustling world, knowing that you have made a difference. A seed has been sown and a foundation is being laid.
The best (and ultimately the quaintest) reading spot in all of Kenya is yet to be. It lies covered in layers of dust, doors shut and it’s rooms forgotten save for the suns rays that filter in through pairs of phenomenal window panes. And it’s as though – as long as it is day – they point to a hidden treasure. A secret haven for readers and book lovers of all ages patiently awaits. It now remains for the ‘crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the square pegs in the round holes’ to take their stand.
And so we make this silent petition.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”