CAMDEN — For the bibliophile it’s about the treasure hunt.

At Stone Soup Books in Camden, a little shop up a flight of stairs from the street, you might find anything, especially that one special thing. The books are packed onto shelves along every wall, floor to ceiling. More books are stacked and piled at your feet, in the center of the room, behind the counter, in closets that open off the sides. Picking through them is not unlike checking over the tables at a yard sale.

Most of the books are paperbacks. They are organized into various categories. There are separate sections for books linked to the music industry and books related to nautical pursuits. Vintage paperbacks featuring pulp artwork line an upper shelf just inside the door. Mystery and science fiction sections include paperbacks going back to the ’60s and ’70s.

Postcards with photos from around the world are available just outside the door.

Always there is owner Paul Joy, who has run the business with his wife, Agnes, since 1982. He sits low behind the counter with his back in a small closet, in danger of actually being buried in his books. When he stands, he is well over six feet.

People come in and make the kind of conversation that second-hand bookshops inspire. Talk ranges from music to movies, old actors, art, things going on in town and even the windy weather.

I always expect him to be closed for the winter, but he’s not.

Joy said his shop is one of the most often photographed scenes in Camden. The students from Maine Media Workshops come and take his picture and photograph his collection.

The prices are handwritten on the inside flaps of the books. $4 for this one, $9.50 for that. He doesn’t take cards. This is still a world of cash and checks.

Maine, he notes, does not change as fast as other places. Part of the charm is that in his shop that is true.

He leaves me with a question and various answers offered. What is the ultimate, quintessential Maine book? Somewhere in all the volumes, it’s there, but the fun is in the search.

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