Nestled between abandoned buildings and bordered by a wall containing one of Philly’s famous mosaic murals on Bainbridge Street, Mostly Books is an independent bookstore with a seemingly infinite supply of literature. The expansive collection is dispersed throughout the store in what can only be described as organized chaos—pure bliss for an English major like myself.
Walking into the store, you are immediately met with stacks of CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes. One could easily spend hours browsing these collections alone, never mind the thousands of books categorized by genre in the rooms beyond. In these rooms, I spent hours soaking up strange titles, flipping through books of abstract art, and picking out more novels than I told myself I was allowed to buy.
Once I made my way to the Fiction and Literature section, I oh-so-stealthily eavesdropped on a conversation between a helpful employee and a wonderfully British customer who had asked for book recommendations. As the employee continuously grabbed personal favorites and tailored recommendations off of the shelves, the English visitor explained that she was on an extended first visit to the city and needed plenty of books to read in her spare time. I’m pretty sure she was just excited about the pound to dollar exchange rate and cheap book prices as I was about her accent—she left with armfuls of reading material, which I myself had to resist doing.
In addition to its intriguing customer atmosphere and unique interior of exposed brick, homemade bookshelves, and ancient hardwood flooring, one of the coolest features of Mostly Books is the photo collection. Stored in giant bins in one of the many book rooms, there are thousands of old photographs, depicting everything from the solemn teenage boy refusing to smile for a high school yearbook photo, to a baby showing off a toothless grin for a group of rambunctious women at a dinner party, all raising their wine glasses for the camera. The photo collection is an interesting catalog of decades and is quite entertaining to peruse.
Although old photographs may seem like an odd item to have for sale in a bookstore, I found them to be a weirdly fitting addition. Reading, for many, is all about escaping reality and entering someone else’s story for a while. Pouring over the snapshots of fleeting moments in other people’s lives provides the same riveting and temporary escape from the world at hand as a novel, allowing you to ponder the past—and maybe have an existential crisis while thinking about how of all of the billions of pictures in the world, this particular photo of this particular person ended up in this particular used bookshop in Philadelphia for you to stumble upon…or maybe that’s just me.
Whether you’re looking for a cheap classic novel for English class, a Rom-Com DVD for date night, or a handful of new-to-you CDs to serve as the soundtrack for your next spontaneous road trip, Mostly Books is the place to go. Their friendly staff, interesting customers, and never ending shelves of books won’t disappoint.