Helicon Books & Book Lovers

Breaking up the heat, it was a rainy morning, and I worried we wouldn’t be able to go out this evening. Having spent the last two nights in North Vancouver, we hoped to venture out and take the ferry to Downtown South Vancouver. However, it wasn’t the weather that got in the way of our evening but the fact that things rarely go according to plan, especially in a shipyard. Most of my coworkers weren’t sure if they would be able to go out for different reasons popping up during the day. So I took the time before dinner to check out a bookstore that had been closed when I passed it the night before. 

Helicon books was new in town. It was an independent bookstore and had recently opened up. Mostly because I have no self-control and must enter a bookshop anytime I see one. However, this time, I did go in with a mission. I had been searching around for travel memoirs about French Polynesians. But since the shop was new, the woman working there, who may have been the owner, informed me that though she had some orders, they weren’t likely to arrive until next week. But she gave me two recommendations on the books that would be coming: The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific by Paul Theroux and Soloman Time: An Unlikely Quest in the South Pacific by Will Randall. Both were a bit west than what I was looking for, but I thanked her for the recommendations anyway, as I knew it would be a long shot because it wasn’t a common area that everyone knew about or even goes to. But you could see by the excitement on her face she was generally interested in hearing what I was planning. So I told her that I worked on the ship in dry dock, and we were only here for a few more days before we headed to Seattle and Los Angeles, and then I would be signing off in Tahiti, where I would be sailing around for two weeks. 

So after we finished talking, I started looking around through the travel memoirs they did have because there was no way I was walking out of the shop without a book. I came across A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations by Pico Iyer. I felt it was a good choice as Iyer had lived in Japan for over thirty years and was a well-known traveler writer. And though I wasn’t going to Japan until September 2023, I could add it to the small collection I have already started. 

Still having an hour before dinner, I decided to see if there were any other bookstores nearby, and not too far was Book Lovers, a used book shop that had been around for at least a decade or so. Walking into the store made me feel like I was walking into Librairie Acqua Alta in Venice. Endless piles of books floor to ceiling made you want to crawl up in a book fort and read for hours. It’s funny the two very different vibes these places had. Helicon books was a one-room open floor space with bookshelves on the walls and a few tables in the middle of the room with a table in the front against the floor-to-ceiling glass window. The area was light and airy, while Book Lovers gave the illusion of a labyrinth where you could discover wonder or be lost forever with one corner turn. 

Unfortunately, the shop owner didn’t have a database system where she could use keywords to search through her inventory; she mostly kept everything organized by genre and last name of the author. So heading to the travel writing section, she wasn’t sure they had what I needed. Taking one book at a time, I came across The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific by Paul Theroux, but as I read through the table of contents, I knew the book wouldn’t be much help for where I would be sailing. So leaving empty-handed, I headed back to the ship, excited to see if we would indeed be able to go out for the evening.


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