Thursday, July 22, 2021

Buford Highway Recollections: Another Book Post

Book Nook as it appears now, in its current location on North Druid Hills road

In the early 1980s, my cousin and friend Scott and I would go on book-buying trips down Buford Highway once a month or so. (At least I remember it as being that often and that regular. Maybe it's something we only did three or four times…but I remember it as being every month or so for a period of a year or so. Also, for me they were book-buying trips, but I think Scott was actually more interested in looking for records.) Sometimes we'd go on a Saturday, sometimes on a weekday afternoon after school—most of the time when this was a regular event for us, we were both still in high school at Berkmar, me in ninth or tenth grade and him in eleventh or twelfth.

The high spot of these trips was Book Nook. Back then it used to be where Clairmont intersects Buford Highway. (Some years ago, it moved to—and still occupies—a building on North Druid Hills, which is fine, and I still go there two or three times a year, but I liked the old location better.) Book Nook was a large used bookstore with a great SF/fantasy section, and probably quite a lot of other types of books, too, but I don't remember because I never looked anywhere else. I do remember, though, that you had to go by—or was it through?—the comic books to get to the SF bookcases. (Book Nook is still a large used bookstore, and it still has a pretty good SF/fantasy section, but now when I go there I also go to several other sections, and also in their current location you don't have to go through the comic books to get to the science fiction shelves.)

When I was in high school, I used to go to the library during my study hall period and look at the original 1977 Science Fiction Encyclopedia—still my favorite edition, primarily because of the illustrations, which were omitted from the mid-90s update. I loved that book; I read more about science fiction than I actually read science fiction. Sometime in the mid-80s, a year or two after Scott and I had pretty much stopped going on our Buford Highway excursions, on a Book Nook visit with my first girlfriend, Laura, I found a copy of the Encyclopedia, and I pounced on it, though I was (and still am) a little disappointed that it didn't have the dust jacket. I can't remember how much it cost, or whether I was able to buy it right away or if I had to go back later (hoping all the while that no one else had gotten to it before me, I'm sure) with the right amount of money. More than thirty years later, I still love that book.

Besides Book Nook, there were at least two other places Scott and I would go regularly. One of them was also a used bookstore; I remember going there one afternoon and finding a copy of Harlan Ellison's landmark anthology Dangerous Visions and thinking I'd found a real prize. I realized years later that it was just a cheap and fairly common book club edition, but I still have that copy, and have read…oh, maybe a fourth of it in the thirty-five years since I bought it. (I've always been guilty of spending more money buying books than time reading them.)

Three books I still have that I know I bought at bookstores along Buford Highway in the 1980s

The other store I remember Scott and me going to on Buford Highway was primarily a used record store—I remember Scott buying an ABBA record there once—but they might have had used books too. I can vaguely picture the inside of the store, but not its location along Buford Highway. I can also remember the owner of the store, as he rang up Scott's ABBA record, telling him about how the members of ABBA spoke no English and learned all their songs phonetically but didn't know what they were singing. Scott just nodded and said, "Oh, really, that's interesting," but as soon as we left the store he told me that was a load of crap (which I'm pretty sure I already knew).

I recall one time on a Saturday Scott and I had lunch at the McDonald's that was near Book Nook, and as we ate, Mike Beaty and Toni Pecoraro, two guys we knew from Berkmar, came in. Mike had a huge afro—look at Neal Schon on the back of a late 70s Journey album—and Tony had shoulder length hair. The both played guitar and were in a band together. I know now that they were just a couple of teenagers, not very different from any other teenagers, but at the time I thought they were rock stars. I don't remember if we talked to them, or if they even acknowledged our presence.

I still occasionally drive down Buford Highway, usually just for nostalgia's sake, since all the book stores and used record stores are now long gone (or, thankfully, moved elsewhere in the case of Book Nook). Sometimes it makes me happy just to be there, since I have so many great memories of that time in my life, and of those book-buying trips with Scott. Sometimes it makes me sad that the area has changed so much, and sadder still that I can't be fifteen again, heading out with Scott to drive down Buford Highway.

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