Midwest Book Scouting Trip – Day 5 – Stillwater, MN and St. Paul

A beautiful blue sky morning and coffee on the deck overlooking the St. Croix River helped us shake off the road miles and gave us a great start to our day.  We walked from the Water Street Inn up to Main Street where we found the Antique Emporium, a three-level antique shop with a fair number of books in different stalls throughout the store.  We came away with three books, the last a nice first edition of Elspeth Huxley’s On the Edge of the Rift, which I spotted while we were waiting to check out.

Across the street St. Croix Booksellers opened up at 11:00.  This shop has a reputation as one of Minnesota’s best used & rare book shops and has been in business for over twenty years.   Besides offering a large variety of books in nice clean condition and a pretty, well-organized store, they offer lovely prints of 19th century architectural plans, organized by state.

St. Croix Booksellers – Stillwater, MN
Inside the store

We didn’t make any large purchases here, but they had a first edition of Under A Wild Sky by William Souder which we snapped up as we were meeting him for lunch later, and I decided it would be it a good opportunity to get a signed copy to offer for sale (I have just one, and that’s in my personal collection).

At 12:45 we met William Souder and Bonnie Blodgett, another author, for lunch at The Dock.  I interviewed William Souder earlier this year for a two-part article which appeared on Bookthink.  He is now working on a book about Rachel Carson, and will be spending part of the summer at Rachel Carson’s home on Southport Island in Maine doing writing and research for this exciting project.

Bonnie Blodgett is an accomplished garden writer, and we found we had a lot in common when it came to favorite books in this genre (Beverley Nichols, for one!).  But Bonnie’s recently released book Remembering Smell is about her experience with loss of the sense of smell after taking the cold remedy Zicam, a drug which has now been removed from the market because of a large number of cases of temporary to permanent loss of smell and disturbing associated side effects due to use of the drug.

William Souder, Bonnie Blodgett, and me

We left Stillwater behind with some regret, because it is such a beautiful town.  We learned that there were once 35 used & rare book shops in Stillwater…now there are two.  There has been a corresponding reduction of used & rare book shops in nearby St. Paul.   There are many forces conspiring against open shops everywhere–internet sales, digital books, high overhead costs in maintaining a shop, decline in reading, to name a few.  Even libraries are now leaning toward space for computers and other media rather than stocking quality books.   And yet, in some of the shops we have visited, foot traffic has been good and I believe the best of the best will survive.  I don’t want to imagine a world without book shops–not just because we are in the business ourselves, but because the world would be a poorer place without them.

We drove to St. Paul and checked in to a simple Day’s Inn (a let-down after the wonderful 19th century Water Street Inn).   After a couple hours of needed rest, we found our way to W. A. Frost, a restaurant in a lovely old building on Selby Street in St. Paul where we met author J. C. (Chris) Hallman and his significant other Catherine Adams for dinner.   My interviews with J. C. Hallman have appeared on Bookthink in 2007 and 2009 His latest book, In Utopia, will be published by St. Martin’s Press on August 3, 2010, and he will be doing a promotional tour through several northeast and eastern states in August.  In Utopia is a fascinating story of mankind’s continuous quest to build a more perfect world, and a rollicking good adventure as the author infiltrates modern experiments in Utopia-building.   Visit his website for information on his books!

Chris and Catherine
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