I’ve been thinking lately about my former dream of owning a bookmobile. It was always a dream that stemmed from two of my deepest desires: to be surrounded by books and to make a home on the road. These days, though, that dream is little more than a fantasy that I only occasionally indulge, usually after I’ve been following the exploits of Sarah from the Book Barge. Recently, too, it’s been on my mind as I read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which reminds me in many ways of Audrey Niffenegger’s graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile. Both feature magic, both are set in venues that, because they are rare and migratory, feel wholly magical. It’s fitting, then, that both authors infused their settings — one a circus, the other a bookmobile — with actual magic. If I were designing the perfect bookmobile, I would charm it with a bit of the stuff, too.
1. An airstream caravan would be the shell of my bookmobile, gutted and filled with retractable wall shelves and space-saving benches. I’d keep the kitchenette.
3. Visitors would lounge on Deck chairs inspired by Penguin classic book covers and read their newly purchased acquisitions on the lawn.
4. Here’s where the magic comes in. I quite like the idea explored by Morgenstern and Niffenegger of the venue arriving unpredictably and operating at unconventional hours. And so I would carry a pocket watch set for midnight and, indeed, that would be the time we open our doors. Can you imagine peoples’ excitement when they see this rad bookmobile drift into town and then read the sign on the door that says “Doors open promptly at midnight”?
5. Shoppers would have the option to pay for their books with a story of their own telling. I’d quite like to make the bookmobile a space where the oral tradition is celebrated.
6. Of course, we’re not total Luddites. All titles would have QR codes, which browsers can scan with their SmartPhones. Customers would then have the option to purchase and download the ebook from our website.
7 We’d sell Rite in the Rain All Weather Notebooks for the visitor who becomes inspired suddenly while browsing the many rows of literature. It happens, and when it happens, you want to be prepared with the most weather impermeable notebook on the market.
8. A functional typewrite. Again, for the inspired visitor.
9. Handmade stationary: Have wheels, will deliver mail. Will also keep a well-stocked supply of fountain pens, bottles (with corks), stamps for purchase and wax seals.
10. Secure shelving so books do not dislodge while caravan is in motion.
11. The most important part of my vision is summed up perfectly by Audrey Niffeneger in The Night Bookmobile. As you know if you’ve read the book, the Night Bookmobile magically reflects each visitor’s personal library and reading tastes. That’s exactly the kind of impression I’d want every visitor to my bookmobile to have: that the inventory was selected exclusively with them in mind. I’ve transcribed the paragraph below.
I drank my tea and explored the farthest recesses of my collection. Each spine was an encapsulated memory, each book represented hours, days of pleasure, of immersion in worlds. At the very end, on the lowest shelf, was the book I had been reading that morning. I picked it up and opened it. There was my bookmark, but the text continued on, for I had read the book many times. I replaced The Complete Short Stories of H.G. Wells on its shelf.