Epitaph for a Bookstore

Jean Barnes Books in Oklahoma City was a booklover’s dream for decades. In the last quarter of the 20th century I began adult worklife as youth minister for a lovely church just down the street from Jean Barnes.  Small and  family owned, the shop was packed cozily from floor to ceiling with a dazzling range of offerings. Tomes of theology unavailable elsewhere begged to be bought and read. Psychology, philosophy, mental health, business and professional books, the best fiction and nonfiction packed this tiny store.  Worlds and offerings, knowledge, ideas, the stuff of life; all were available.

The Barnes and Wood families were always on hand, and knew every book inside and out. It was one of those places with a little bronze bell on the door. You entered to the fragrance of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco and fresh coffee. And swirling in the midst of smoke and fragrance, the ever bracing smell of new books.

Change happens everywhere, and the internet became the chosen means for buying and selling books, the big box bookstores hit town, it’s the old story.

Today, only a vacant shell and faded sign remain as mute testimony, but my heart skips a beat and writes a palimpsest of joyful lost afternoons exploring worlds that – with enough hard work, faith, and courage – might become my own.

Glad to say, David Wood (a member of the original family) runs a publishing company, with the lovely name WoodNBarnes, an homage to his family heritage http://woodnbarnes.com/

There are many wonderful bookstores in the world, and I love just about all of them. Millions of people visit bookstores, but no one is more grateful than I am.

Peace y’all,

Cary Branscum

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