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Chamblin’s – Heaven on earth for the city’s bibliophiles

3 Jan

My inbox this morning contained an email from a family member offering a pick-and-choose list of 100 worthy but intimidating New Year’s Resolutions, including the following:

  • Keep at least one plant alive in your bedroom
  • Start learning a language not spoken in Western Europe
  • Memorize all the international capital cities
  • Discover the meaning of ‘classical’ in classical art/literature/music
  • Teach yourself Morse Code
  • Learn how to become lucid while dreaming

Holy cow. Clearly, whittling down this list of self-improvement projects requires more than watching a couple of shows on the Discovery Channel. But where to start?

Then the solution manifested itself, like a forgotten gift suddenly rediscovered while taking down the Christmas tree: This year, the road to personal redemption begins at Chamblin’s.

Chamblin's Uptown

Chamblin’s is one of Jacksonville’s great Indie treasures—a cartoonishly huge enterprise that, between its two locations (Chamblin’s Uptown and Chamblin’s Bookmine), stocks a two-million-plus title inventory of new, used, and rare books. Not even those Home Depot-sized Barnes & Noble stores can compete with the sheer breadth and depth of what Chamblin’s offers.

The store’s selection is as wide as a rainbow, ranging from self-help to international studies to government to comics, computers, astronomy, genealogy, Christian theology, fiction and non-fiction, new age, and yes, even guides on how to keep house plants alive.  You name it–Chamblin’s is guaranteed to have a book on whatever topic you can imagine.  (Don’t believe us? Check out Huffington Post, where Chamblin’s merits a mention on their list of the 9 Most Amazing Bookstores in the World.)

In the stacks at Chamblin's Bookmine

Admittedly, Chamblin’s inventory is housed haphazardly, along miles of winding halls where more than one browser has gotten hopelessly lost. But it is in this seeming chaos that one rediscovers the romance of buying and reading a book. An afternoon spent among the stacks at Chamblin’s promises you a messy, meandering, serendipitous journey of discovery. (Think we’re exaggerating? Look at this passionate video by one of the store’s fans.) Best of all, Chamblin’s saves you money. Most books in the store are half off the cover price, and you can easily turn in your own used books for store credit.

Chamblin’s Uptown (paradoxically located Downtown, at 215 N. Laura Street) is a bit more refined than its sister store, the rambling labyrinth that is the original Chamblin’s Bookmine (located just beyond Avondale, at 4551 Roosevelt Blvd). In addition to all its books, Chamblin’s Uptown’s boasts a fine café and espresso bar and enough comfortable Wi-Fi-enabled  space to host an impromptu meeting. (That motley group at the next table over might just be the GoLO crew!) Conveniently located just down from Hemming Plaza, on the road that leads to the Jacksonville Landing, even people who otherwise get lost downtown can easily find Chamblin’s Uptown.

Even if your only New Year’s Resolution for 2011 is to not feel pressured to make any New Year’s Resolutions (No. 100 on my email list), you owe it to yourself to check out Chamblin’s.


Jean in Avondale

P.S. Chamblin’s Uptown is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm (Wednesdays until 9 pm), and on Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Chamblin’s Bookmine is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, but is closed Sundays.

Chamblin's Bookmine, at Roosevelt Blvd.

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