I lived in Asheville for six years, and I can't say that much was consistent during that time. From guitar stores and restaurants to record shops and even hiking trails, my favorites changed often. I was initially in college but then I quit. I had lots of jobs and cars, too, and I must have lived in half a dozen rentals during as many years. Despite all the fluctuation, though, there was only one bookstore I loved.
I discovered the Asheville Reader's Corner early in my mountainous tenure, probably in late 2000 or early 2001. Soon I was scouring its shelves for old editions of books by my favorite authors. With a 75-cent minimum price tag, I could spend $5 or $10 and walk out with an armload of Steinbeck, Asimov and Frank Herbert. A few bucks at a time, I built a home library that helped me maintain sanity through the string of dead-end jobs that followed my abortive stint at UNCA.
Between my stint in Asheville and my arrival in Pittsboro, where my family is now, we lived in Greenville, where I'd found the used bookstore scene to be seriously lacking. When I moved to the Triangle in 2008, I got that old familiar feeling from Carrboro's Nice Price. Sure, I was thrilled to live somewhere that sported a handful of worthy options, but Nice Price fit me best. It possessed that same hallowed vibe that made me feel I was in a science museum or a good library. The corners and shelves were just dusty enough for me to imagine I could peruse the books in peaceful solitude forever, no matter what I was wearing or feeling at the time.
So last week's news that the Nice Price in Carrboro would close come mid-March hurt more than a little. Losing a trusted bookstore is like having a friend move away. With a place like Nice Price, there's a level of easy-going comfort; now, that's suddenly gone. It can take a long time to develop a routine (depending on the layout, I typically start at sci-fi, move on to literature, and then to nonfiction) for proper browsing. In bookstores where I don't have that feeling, I rush and, I assume, miss out on the best books I've never seen.
With worn but loved editions of books from places such as Nice Price, I built the library that now takes up the entire back room of our house. I own almost every Kurt Vonnegut book because of stores like Nice Price. I own an amazing hardcover edition of Blood Meridian because of the Nice Price that will soon be leaving Carrboro. So, which one is next? Can new stores like Circle City Books, a refreshingly quick mile from my house, survive if a 20-year institution can't?
I'm no Luddite: I know we can't turn back the clock and, frankly, I like my iPhone and the Internet. But I also like to wall myself in with bookshelves and absolutely lose myself, like I learned to do years ago in a used bookstore on the edge of downtown Asheville. At least I've done much the same thing in my own house by now. I'll be here a while.
Corbie Hill is a father, husband, musician and avid reader living in Pittsboro. He is a regular contributor to INDY Week's music section.