I’ve lived in Uptown in Chicago for 34 years—and that whole time there has been a little used bookstore down the street at Lawrence and Broadway. First it was the Book Box and then it changed its name to Shake, Rattle, and Read. Along with books there was a wide assortment of used vinyl.
The current owner Ric Addy will never know what a godsend his shop has been to me through the years.
Readers of this blog will have already picked up that books have saved my life. Reading has been my constant companion even before I could read. As a pre-reader I begged for the same books to be read to me over and over. I connected with story. As miserable as the Uptown neighborhood appeared to me in the early 80s it was only bearable because of the Book Box. I’d go there with empty pockets, just to browse. That’s all I could afford.
Still it was enough to stand there in that environment and breathe in words, musty yellowed pages of them, pulp fiction covers, noir. It was living water.
Now all these years later, I can honestly say Shake, Rattle, and Read has kept me going. Or rather the Free Box out front. It was a mini-miracle on days when it seemed like the sun would never come out I could stop there on the to or from the post office or tucking money away at the bank—the noose around my neck to help pay for my daughter’s education sometimes felt so tight I could hardly breathe. The Free Box was a blessing, a bit of grace in the midst of an ever-tightening economy. And, the serendipitous of it! You’d never know what you’d find!
Usually a battered classic or info-mational CD, or a pamphlet on gardening or something abstract. But that was the point—I wanted to be surprised.
Shake, Rattle, and Read and the Free Box have been a bright spot here in Uptown since 1966—and I’m sad to see it go. Ric is retiring. You will be missed.