Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordcraft -- All Booked Up in Archer City

Booked Up

216 S. Center (on the courthouse square)

Archer City


When author Larry McMurtry left his hometown of Archer City, Texas, he promised himself that if he ever returned, he’d bring a copy of every book he would need. He’s more than kept that promise with Booked Up, the bookstore that now occupies four buildings around the courthouse square in the tiny North Texas town.

When I left Dallas, I worried that I hadn’t googled a map of Archer City, although I knew, at least, that the bookstore was near the courthouse. No need to worry. The stone courthouse in Archer City (county seat of Archer County) is the most conspicuous sight for miles in the short-grass prairie landscape. And as Highway 25 transposed into East Main Street, a storefront labeled Booked Up, Building Four, appeared near the stoplight. I turned in front of the courthouse onto South Center to find the remaining buildings within a block of each other.

The most impressive storefront belonged to Building One, the only place I found employees on my weekday visit. The front room contains an array of rare and first editions. Although shelf space at my house is limited, I knew I’d have to have a souvenir of this visit. But there was so much more to see -- more than 400,000 volumes, according to the Archer City website, The back of Building One contained a cat and a warehouse worth of shelves housing genre fiction and biographies in the only un-air conditioned room I found. But the annex adjacent to the rare books room was cooled, with a wonderful collection of Americana and Texana, including works by Texas authors.

A list in Building One describes the contents of each store, but I had to peek in all of them before working my way around to Building Four. I couldn’t be expected to resist temptation much longer, not when the floor was stacked with back issues of Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine, at a dollar each. I’d made my choice, vowing to come back for more someday, when two other browsers mentioned that there was a twenty-five percent off summer sale. I asked the cashier back in Building One how long the sale could last, and she said, as long as McMurtry decides it will.

Booked Up is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. However, signs in the buildings advise shoppers that the individual buildings close at 4:45 p.m., and that purchases of more than five items need to be brought to Building One no later than 4:30 p.m. The stores don’t list a website, but for additional information, call (940) 574-2511 or email


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