Remove his large glasses and he resembles a middle-aged Robert Frost. Peter Hiler, owner of The Book Trader, believes that “books change lives.” For over 35 years Hiler has upheld that notion with his homey yet hefty book-chest, shelved tightly within Old City near Christ Church’s miniature park. Inside, red and yellow walls warmly welcome questing readers. The Book Trader functions as a literary marketplace; it offers the unique opportunity to trade, buy, and sell books. Hiler accepts most lightly used texts, and makes his decisions with an eye to maintaining his store’s variety. Between two floors The Book Trader boasts an array of sections: Art, History, Architecture, Sports, Politics, Philosophy, Children’s Literature, and a wonderful Poetry section are but a few.
Discoveries such as an early edition of Ginsberg’s Planet News, mounds of Bukowski, and several Warhol art books were a few personal standouts. To keep his prices low and his customers coming back, Hiler gives discounts on large purchases (spend $50 and you’ll receive 30% off, for example) and permits patrons to return their finished books for store credit. It’s an Old City staple, a “Philadelphia Iistitution,” says Nancy, an employee I spoke to on the second floor. Not to be overthrown by techies, Hiler sells his wares on AbeBooks and Amazon too. Hiler’s constant influx of books, in-store and online, keeps the community’s academic and cultural engine churning — changing lives one page at a time. The Book Trader remains an ally to bookworms and curious adventurers alike.
Riverside Literature Series Number 40, February, 1889. This particular issue contains several stories by the marvelous Nathaniel Hawthorne; its vanilla-wood bouquet beckoned me from several blocks away. Following the scent led me into Jules Goldman Books & Antiques — a long corridor of wooden floorboards narrated by aged texts, sketches and paintings arranged in wondrous disarray, and ornamental items interwoven, detached from time. David Ohlerking’s oil-derived Phildelphian cityscapes mingle effortlessly among beer steins, figurines, and candelabrums.
Hawthorne, 123 years old, had lured me to owner Jules Goldman’s treasure-trove. Impressive. In gruff tones, Goldman explained to me that stores like his are dying off, which only underlines Books & Antiques’ importance in the literary and art scenes of Philadelphia. While Books & Antiques contains a plethora of paperbound goods, Goldman emphasizes the paintings, collages, and prints of artists Philadelphian and abroad. He hosts art exhibitions regularly and is an expert curator of Abstract Contemporary Art. For instance, from February 3rd to March 1st, Brian Gormley, Ronald C. Martin, Robert Petrick, and Nico Smith will represent what Goldman calls “Modernists in Exile.” Expect intellectual, compelling work.
Navigating through Goldman’s compact artistic realm is nothing short of inspiring. Peruse Books & Antiques’ shelves long enough and soft curls of creativity will slowly creep their way into your consciousness. I recommend exploring Goldman’s store if you’re in need of nourishment. You might just smell something good.
For more information visit Goldman’s website: http://julesgoldmanbooks.com
Steve Burns recently graduated from Rowan University with a BA in English and Education. He’s toying with the idea of graduate school (that is, when he’s not making poems with refrigerator magnets) and hopes to teach at the college level some day. Freeing insects from windowsills, massaging cat tummies, and reading poetry are but a few of his pastimes. Words fascinate him. As do spinning records and freshly brewed coffee.