The past few years, I've become increasingly interested in both minimizing my life and its accompanying clutter and using my local public library. The two go quite nicely hand-in-hand: the library offers me almost every new and exciting title I could want, and once I'm finished with a book I drop it in the box and it's one less item junking up my house.

A side effect of this phenomenon is that my lifelong desire to fill every nook and cranny of my living space with books has evaporated completely. I used to ask for bookstore gift certificates for every birthday and Christmas. As a ten-year-old, I once famously announced to my extended family that I planned to go “on a rampage” at B. Dalton at the mall. I wasn't just a reader, I was a collector, and part of the joy of reading was owning and treasuring shelf after shelf of the glossy, pulpy-smelling objects of my affection. I have a crystal-clear memory of nesting into our navy blue flowered sofa with a stack of Berenstain Bears books a foot high on my right. I would read one, place it in the “read” pile on my left, and then move on to the next adventure of Brother and Sister Bear. Those guys were always getting into trouble. Silly bears.

Now that my collector's itch has subsided (or succumbed to old age, perhaps), visiting bookstores is a more rarefied occasion for me. One time, though, that I absolutely can't resist bookstores is when I'm on vacation. I'm not big into souvenirs, but if I can find a book that tickles my fancy, it serves as a great memento of the trip and I'll have the eventual pleasure of reading it.

So when Adam and I and a couple of our good friends were in Omaha the other weekend and I spied a bookstore across the street, I had to stop in and explore. (Yes, Omaha! When you live in the Bread Basket of America, you make your fun where you find it.) Fortunately, my friend Christina is also a big reader (and a native Nebraskan!) and was up for checking it out.

Used bookstores are strange creatures. They're often disorganized, with idiosyncratic shelving systems and the occasional geriatric cat. I'm fine with all that. If I'm on vacation, I don't mind a treasure hunt.

But you guys...

This bookstore was the most jumbled, hodgepodge mix of everything under the sun that I have ever seen. As I live and breathe.

Just taking it all in...

I eventually managed to find the fiction section, which did appear to be roughly alphabetized. I also found this excellent book about, apparently, bass fishing.

There were handwritten signs posted throughout the store, recommending to patrons that if you couldn't find a book you were looking for that you ask for it at the desk. As if any single employee could locate one particular book in allllllllllllll of that.

Another oddity I'd never encountered before: half the store was completely dark. All lights off. I guess it was almost closing time anyway?? The rest was lit with an elaborate network of extension cords and shop lights, which, as the daughter of a retired fire chief, I wasn't able to completely ignore.

Let's just say, after volunteering in a library for a year, I was hivey just looking at those shelves. But it did make for a fun browse.

Adam and I poked around another cool used bookstore on our honeymoon in Hawaii. The Talk Story Bookstore is located on the island of Kauai, and it is the self-proclaimed “Westernmost Bookstore in the United States.”

Both Adam's and my hair look pretty different these days. Ah, young love. (We'll be married five years next month.)

Here's to great travels, lifelong memories, and crazy, jumbled, mixed-up bookstores!