Terra: Goodlight Books, Alajuela Costa Rica
It’s purple, which in most places would make it stand out. However, this is Costa Rica, and forget about using a street address. It’s a few blocks north of the Cathedral. Greenery drapes over the walls and gates as a single sign hangs above the street. It’s unassuming, unpretentious. It’s a bookstore.
Yet it’s more. Goodlight is an English-language bookstore in a Spanish-speaking world. A respite for the weary traveler. It reminds me of home, yet does so in a subdued way. Every guide tells me to go there, every local asks if I’ve been. More than anything else, it makes me want to open up a bookstore of my own. For bibliophiles, this must be a special kind of paradise.
Books are piled neatly from floor to ceiling. Wall to wall bookcases line the narrow rooms. Shelves are arranged by topic, and encourage long bouts of aimless browsing. The tomes seem to have propagated organically, covering all available space. Crossing the threshold is not for the claustrophobic, since there is little room for two people to cross side by side. During busier times there is lots of pardoning and elbow rubbing. Too much to see, and not enough space to see it.
Fiction occupies the majority of the space. Used books for travelers on the road, to pass the time in between points A and B. A large collection of travel guides for Costa Rica, and other neighboring countries, occupy the large bookcase directly across from the entrance. Language guides and dictionaries are plentiful. On your left, coffee and snacks are displayed in a small kitchenette. Crumbs wedge in between pages, a pick-me-up for the road.
I spent far too much time on the covered patio, trying not to burn in the midday sun. Time spent sipping on water and leafing through various notebook pages. People streamed steadily in and out, never in a hurry, but grateful for the break in the day. Just outside the door a loaded cart full of books are offered for free, a popular stop on the way in and out of the shop.
The free book cart could be considered a summation of Goodlight as a whole. This is the kind of place that they are operating here. It’s obvious that nobody is getting rich from the storefront, but nobody seems to care. Perhaps this is an embodiment of Costa Rica as a whole, “pura vida” in literary form. Existing here demands a type of simplicity, and I’m happy to submit myself to the good light.
Michael Van Etten
The LEAF Project
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