Every time I leave Paterson after teaching my classes, I pass the ornate building that once housed Meyer Brothers Department Store. Before the malls sucked the life out of downtown districts, Meyer Brothers was the place to shop in North Jersey. The big attraction for me when my mother shopped there was the book store, which was located on an elegant little mezzanine at the head of  a grand staircase. Mom could take her time elsewhere, because once she dropped me off in the book store, she knew where she’d find me no matter how much time had elapsed. The keepers of the shop must have a patient bunch, because I used it as if it were a library. We went there fairly often, and I returned to the same books again and again, hoping they wouldn’t be sold out before I had read them through.

Browsing at Meyer Brothers provided my first opportunities to buy books, which had not been part of the routine in our house. Both of my parents read a lot, but they read periodicals. I read the newspapers and magazines, too, but once I got the feel and smell of books into my system, I slipped into a lifelong addiction. Mom accommodated me when I started buying the “Peanuts” anthologies that began to appear in the very early 1950s, and humorous little “history” books by Richard Armour.

When chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble started making it fashionable to hang out in the stacks it seemed as if book browsing had become a post-modern institution, but now the trend toward buying and reading books on line threatens to make that experience a thing of the past — like Meyer Brothers, with its boarded-up windows and its for-rent signs.

Carolyn Kellogg, who blogs about books for the LA Times wrote about the trend this week. Her blog is at this link: