Midnight Glimpse: Books & Books

How many martinis and half-forgotten hookups must we indulge before tiring of debauchery? The road of excess can be exciting, but for some of us, clubland adventures often turn into reruns of a boring soap opera. And it is right about this time, according to William Blake, that you find yourself at the palace of wisdom. So now that youve acquired this enlightened status, where do you go on a weekend night? The answer is easy: to Books & Books (265 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables; 305-442-4408). And if you didn't get the William Blake reference, thats even more reason to go and pick up a book.

On a recent Friday night, a live band played jazz in the Books & Books courtyard. The guitarists fingers danced over the strings as he silently scatted, while the drummer seemed to mistake the moonlight for sunlight, wearing sunglasses and a half-unbuttoned shirt. The romantic sounds both drew and repelled diners at the cafe, depending on their dating status. Some lovers leaned in closer, while other pairs increased the friends only barrier between them. A few lone imbibers puffed on cigars at the wine bar.

A tattooed staff served wine, cheese, fruits, sandwiches, and salads to patrons ranging from an older man with suspenders and a cane to a twentysomething couple in jeans. People of all ages see the charm in Books & Books, figuratively and literally. The actual store building surrounds the courtyard, and the numerous windows offer generous views inside. The rooms resemble Victorian studies with high shelves accessible only by attached rolling ladders. There is also a childrens room and a makeshift living room, complete with a defunct fireplace and paintings.

Visitors can nosh on a cupcake at the cafe, chill out with a book, or partake in the quiet poetry reading that unfolds in a hidden corner of the store. For those unsure of what books to check out, a cashier with thick-rimmed glasses suggests a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle for a rare read -- or rather, a rare look-see. As one of the first printed books (from circa 1493), the text is in Latin, but there are plenty of pretty pictures.


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