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Still Distinctive Island Reading

Friday from the Archives: “Ocracoke Boosktores: Distinctive Island Reading” by Sally Lawrence from NCLR Issue 14 (2005)

Sally Lawrence was (among other things) NCLR‘s website designer when she penned this essay for the 2005 issue, featuring work on Outer Banks Writing. She interviewed Leslie Lanier about her two bookstores: Books to be Red and Java Books.

It’s shocking, and yet not, to find such fine small bookstores on this vacation island. Ocracoke gets many visitors during the summer high season, and quite a few still during the spring and fall shoulder seasons. Lawrence is writing during her Thanksgiving visit to the famous spot. With such a wealth of people passing through, it makes sense for Lanier to open both bookstores.

Both stores are partnered with different businesses: Books to be Red is joined to a pottery store and Java Books, appropriately, to a coffeeshop. Lawrence muses, “I can’t help but think that this must be a fine life – a bookstore with sunshine lighting up the fresh flowers on an island with some of the best beaches on the eastern seaboard. When she’s free again, I ask “What is the best part of owning these stores?” Leslie responds enthusiastically, “The kids and the books.””

The worst part is hurricanes, many of which have passed over and around the Outer Banks over the years. Unlike other hurricane-exposed geographies, Ocracoke doesn’t have much to fall back on outside of those industries and stalwart individuals who have chosen to make this awkward place their home. The simple life appeals. Lawrence thinks, “Perhaps [this] … is the essence of Ocracoke’s appeal: it’s a small village on a small island, and your choices are limited. Maybe this sense of limited choice is exactly what makes the visit so relaxing – time is spent enjoying life, not making decisions about how to enjoy life.”

To read the rest of Lawrence’s essay order the back issue online at our store.