Throughout the month, I’ve been inviting the participation of others on my blog. Today’s post is by my sister-in-law, Dr. Bethany Johnson, who is also my friend and travel buddy. She shares about her recent trip to Mississippi.
Books, Coffee, Campuses, and Authors
My sister-in-law and I began taking much needed girl trips together after the pandemic. We both felt the need to get out, explore, be immersed in nature, and simply connect and have fun. We have been to beautiful gardens, historic hotels, stayed in outdated but comfy cabins in the mountains. We have walked around beautiful towns shopping, sought out confectionery treats, eaten in cute cafes and, of course, always found a coffee shop.
When deciding how we pick our trips, we look at what we love the most and begin centering ideas for places that satisfy one, if not more, of these criteria. We both say a bookstore is our second home, so it’s always a given that books need to be involved. However, we like to go to unique, privately owned bookstores with personality, so no large chain bookstores for us. We both love coffee, so a coffee shop is a must. She is a writer, so any place that has a connection to an author makes her giddy – and for me, being a professor, I love to walk around college campuses.
Kim and I never return from one of these trips without discussing our next
adventure. One of these discussions led us to a possible trip to Oxford, Mississippi. Why
Oxford? Because all four of our must-haves are in this quaint, beautiful Southern town. It has a campus – Ole Miss. It features two American authors – John Grisham and the late William Faulkner. It has several coffee shops, and it has one of the most unique bookstores in the country … Square Books.
Unfortunately, due to conflicts in our work schedules, we were not able to take that trip together. However, my adventurous sister-in-law, who has taken many solo trips, encouraged me to go by myself when an opportunity to attend a conference in Oxford arose.
So, off I went!
The square in Oxford, alone, is worth the trip. Walking around the square, I found myself slowing down and meandering into the many shops. But I must admit my slowing down wasn’t the first thing I did because I had one destination in mind, the sole goal of the trip (no, the conference wasn’t even the true reason) … Square Books. There are four Square Books stores all within walking distance of each other and each offering something unique. I chose to visit the original and main store. This multi-floored bookstore has everything from rare books to best selling books to books signed by the authors. Each floor offers so many possibilities for a book lover like me. It was only within the aisles of these floors that I finally slowed down while looking at the books, just waiting for that one book to speak to me. I ran my finger along the spines of the books as I took in the smell. I wandered to the rare book section, taking in the history behind them. I stood looking in wonder at how something so small has within its pages something worth so much!
I sat in one of the antique chairs nestled in a corner on the third floor simply listening to the hushed sounds of other people chasing the infinite possibilities within the pages of a book. I smelled the coffee from the small coffee shop and wished it wasn’t raining because I really
wanted to sit on the balcony overlooking the square. That will be my reason for going back.
I lost myself within the first few pages of several potential books trying to decide if I should only buy one. I sat there for a long time finding peace in my heart and letting the rest of the world stay outside of those brick walls.
This bookstore has been written up in many articles nationwide. My favorite article about it is in Southern Living. In this article, it describes Square Books so perfectly: “The little independent bookstore that could has made quite the name for itself, while somehow managing to remain true to its roots.”
So, if you love sweet southern towns and especially love books, I hope you find yourself walking around the streets of Oxford and especially among the floors of Square Books.