Being a slight bibliophile, whenever someone mentions the words “book” or “bookstore”, my ears instantly perk up. It was no different when I heard about Walk A Crooked Mile Books, except instead of just my ears perking up, my hopes were raised and my spirits were lifted. I was told that not only were there shelves stuffed to the rim with books of all kinds, but cats and coffee as well. Books, cats and coffee sound like heaven to me, and needless to say, I was sold.
For those that don’t know, which is probably everybody, Walk A Crooked Mile Books is a used bookstore on Devon Street in Mt. Airy. It’s owned by Greg Willams and Cynthia Potter, who’ve been running the store for about 15 years. It’s only about a ten-minute drive from Arcadia University’s campus, and let me tell you, it is one hundred percent worth it. The store itself used to be the old Mt. Airy Train Station, which is now the location of the Chestnut Hill Line. During the warmer months, Walk a Crooked Mile hosts free outdoor concerts and yard sales, providing the community with a great place to come together and have fun. The store itself is little, but it’s packed to the brim with charm, and with seven rooms filled with books, there has got to be something for everyone.
When I pulled up to the store, I knew without even going inside that my high expectations would be met. One of the owners, Greg Willams, was outside unloading books, and the minute that I approached him, he was eager to help. He led me inside, offered me a free complementary cup of coffee, and proceeded to tell me the ins and outs of the place. When I walked through the door with him, I left the real world and entered heaven. There was a warm cup of coffee in my hand, there was a cat running about my feet, but most importantly, I was surrounded by stacks and stacks of books. It was heaven, it was a dream world, it was a bookworm’s fantasy come to life. Upstairs and downstairs, books could be found on all subjects: math, science, fantasy, travel, you name it and they probably had it. Unfortunately, the space was kind of tight, but that can be overlooked considering the sheer number of books they had. Wherever there was a spot to cram books—bathtubs included—you can bet that books were there.
With all the books available in Walk a Crooked Mile Books, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and not know where to start. My advice for navigating is to start at the top. Work from upstairs to downstairs, and don’t be afraid of perusing a section you have no interest in. Books are hidden everywhere, so keep an open mind upon searching. Instead of just frantically combing through the stacks for one book that you want, don’t hesitate to take time to browse. There’s so much to see, so you don’t want to miss anything!
I made my way up an old spiral staircase and headed to the travel section. It’s great, though a little tiny, but there are books, travel guides and maps on just about every place a person would be interested in visting. I then worked my way through history, religion and education. Fiction books are broken up into sections like romance, sci-fi and overall fiction, so I spent most of my time combing through the fiction stacks. Fiction scatters throughout upstairs and downstairs, so after circulating the entire upstairs, I headed back down the rickety spiral staircase to continue my search.
Downstairs, there’s the children’s section and even more paperbacks. Mr. Williams was totally okay with letting me stash my large collection of books on a nearby shelf, giving my arms a chance to rest. Surprisingly, for such an enormous collection, the shop is quite organized. All books are arranged by author’s last name, making them easy to find; however, the shelves aren’t always labeled, so you’ve got to actually read the spines to figure out what section of the alphabet you’re in. Of course, some books were out of place here and there, but that just added to the overall charm of the place.
I spent about an hour wandering through the stacks, stumbling upon some great, and totally unexpected, finds that I ended up buying. Mr. Willams tallied up my purchases (paperbacks are only about 2.00!), and then I was off, informing him that I would be back for another look sometime in the near future. Sadly, I only saw one cat, and it didn’t want anything to do with me, but other than that, this book store was exactly how I imagined it to be. The best part, of course, was that I bought six books and it was only a little over $10. The extra time spent browsing was well worth it, and even though I could have walked into any Barnes and Nobles, found the book I wanted and been out in ten minutes, I’d rather take a chance and spend hours at Walk a Crooked Mile. The atmosphere is beautiful, the personal attention is wonderful, and it’s simply a great way to spend an afternoon.
So, my fellow bibliophiles, please check out Walk A Crooked Mile Books. It’s well worth a trip, and even if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the thousands of books they have, then at least you’ll get to enjoy a free cup of coffee and maybe pet a cat.
Photography credited to Bri Wink via LocoMag