a small glimpse into the Krakow reading life, in a Krakow bookshop

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On another rainy day in Krakow we slipped inside a miniature palace of books. I could have stayed the entire day. I don't know a word of Polish. I didn't know these authors. But the art, the bindings, the printing—it was like stepping back into that time when my mother tucked herself behind a couch and put on puppet shows. It was like sitting with my uncle as he made his fabulous Victorian ornaments—velvet ribbons, pearls, scrapbook faces.

That kind of richness of escape into other worlds.

The store itself, called Bona, was located just down the road from Wawel Castle, but it wasn't a place for tourists. There were pastries in the back, a winding staircase to a stone-faced exhibition room, a reading lounge, and a young woman with impeccable English who helped me understand where Poland is just now, as a reading country. Illustrated picture books like the one I bought, above, exude, she said, a timelessness and also an agelessness; adults find one thing in the story and children another. Young adult books have not yet reached the popularity they have here in the states, perhaps because adults read novels written for adults or spend time with these glorious art-infused picture books. And paper books—the tangible, shelf-able kind—remain a towering favorite, both because of the quality of the art and because digital reading devices can cost up to half a young person's monthly salary.

The number of books in the store wasn't huge. The quality, however, was. It took a long time for me to choose this one, and then another little bit to choose the book I brought home for my friend Karolina, whose stories of a Krakow childhood had brought me to her country in the first place.


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