James Street Bookseller 134 James Street South
If there is one thing that you need to know about me, it’s this: I love books. Like, to a ridiculous degree. I’m that person who has an entire bookcase of purchased and unread books and still finds herself standing in a bookstore with multiple books in hand. So when my good pal, Kristin, said “you could blog some of the stores you shop in,” I jumped at the chance!
So, on a dreary late summer day, Kristin and I were joined by our friend and brilliant photographer, Lisa, and the unofficially-official I Heart Hamilton Book Crawl commenced. First stop was the James Street Bookseller for a visit with owner Monique Doepel.
JSB is located in the heart of James St South on the corner of James and Bold. What was once a dress shop stands a quaint space full of used and rare collectibles and re-readables. There is also a small selection of books from local authors if that’s more your cup of tea.
Dark bookcases line the South wall with those swoon-worthy classic, clothbound hardbacks immediately catching your eye upon entering. The rest of the shelves are filled to the brim and, in some places, over-flowing into glorious piles of books to be carefully excavated. The only thing inside left over from the dress shop days is a cloth drape covering the fluorescent lighting, helping to add a cozy feel to the space.
Downstairs there is a homey meeting area with a fireplace and comfy chairs. The space can be rented out for meetings and book clubs; Monique even does art shows. During our visit we were lucky enough to see beautiful paintings by 89-year-old local artist Ken Davies. Ken’s paintings are a reflection of Hamilton from the 1940’s on. Unsurprising, if you’ve seen his work, he sold 11 pieces with 6 commission requests. The real kicker for me was learning that this was his very first art show! I wish his paintings were still up so that y’all could get a look.
Monique usually changes up the art to coincide with Art Crawl, so the next time you’re out, make sure you start south before making your way down James North. When you’re in the shop, don’t forget to pop downstairs. It’s remarkable what that lady has done to an old, cold, storage room. She showed us some photos, pre-renos, and I can’t even.
Before leaving the store, I asked Monique the hardest question to ask any book lover – what her top three books of all time are. This question is a painful one for me because I’m quite certain mine change almost daily but like a champ she answered:
· The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
· The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway
· Exit Ghost by Phillip Roth
She says, “There is a thread, and each one has gotten under my skin in no small way.”
I second Kavalier and Clay. So good. Go in and say hi the next time you find yourself downtown. If there’s one thing I can say about booksellers it’s that we sure do love talking about books!
Stay tuned for our next bookshop adventure!