Two blocks off Canal on Decatur Street across from the House of Blues is an unassuming bookshop called Beckham’s. From the street, it looks like a quaint little bookstore, but it is so much more than that. Past the tall wooden doors, you will find high ceilings and rows of colossal bookshelves that reach far above your head full of used books in good condition. At your feet, you’ll see stacks of popular books from the towering shelf in front of it, as sort of passive recommendations. Perhaps when browsing through the O through P shelf of the fiction shelf, you’ll see a gray cat with white socks lounging on Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. Classical music drowns out street noises. With a first floor so enticing, it’s easy to spend your entire time there and not make it to the next two floors. That would be a rookie mistake; we both know you’re better than that.
Take the wooden staircase to the second floor. The floor is silent except for the squeaking of an off-kilter ceiling fan. This floor is mostly nonfiction. You may not typically consider yourself a fan of nonfiction. This would be the bookshop to change that. No matter if you’re looking for a general book on the Civil War or a more esoteric account of the antique guns used by the Union Army, you will find it at Beckham’s. At the back of the room behind some shelves on the second floor is yet another staircase. There are boxes of books on the landing, making me apprehensive to go up them. I also was wondering what else they could have had up there with two large chock-full rooms full of any book I could imagine.
When I reached the third floor, I became even more convinced I was not supposed to be there. The wooden floor creaked under my feet. I felt like I was going through my grandmother’s attic. The lights were off, the room only lit by the windows that stretched from floor to ceiling overlooking the House of Blues. The fans were immobile. Rather than bookshelves, this floor was full of crates of old records and National Geographic’s dating back to the 1920s.
Beckham’s Bookshop is not a place to go if you have five minutes to grab a new paperback. It’s where you go if you find yourself wandering with a cup of coffee through the Quarter with time to kill, or if you’re looking for a relief from the chaos of the camera-crew filled Jackson Square. You could find something specific, definitely, but on a visit to Beckham’s, don’t rush. Wander for a while, pull a few books out, take some time to reminisce browsing through old records. It will be time well spent.