The English Language Book Exchange at Caftan Rojo, Xicoténcatl 44 on the corner of Zaragosa in Coatepec (in other words, maybe three blocks into Coatepec on the street you take when coming from Xalapa) is woefully unadvertised. Especially for fiction lovers, it is a bountiful resource which can save big bucks on Kindle purchases. Spanish speakers who would like to improve their English skills by reading will also find tons of choices here, from pretty easy to read mysteries to really convoluted classics. UNFORTUNATELY, you'll have to wait till next week (maybe Wednesday) to be able to wander around the shelves because the room housing it all is being repainted and I think new shelves are being put up. However, you can browse the stacks of books on tables in a nearby room if you promise not to knock any of them over. The non-fiction is also in this room and is SHELVED.
In addition to English language books, there is a pretty hefty selection of Spanish books now in boxes under the tables in the nearby room. The Spanish books include classics, journals, fiction and poetry as well as translations from English of some popular mysteries. Diving into PD James in Spanish helped my Spanish. You haven't read an English mystery until you've read it in Spanish.
The guiding rule is supposed to be "Take a book, bring a book" meaning you can keep what you take it if you replace it with something else or return the original. HOWEVER, there are now too many English language books so you can pretty well keep what you take.
What started me on this post is the book I just added to the two piles of books sitting near my front door waiting to be returned. The book I just finished, The Royal Physician's Visit by the Swedish writer Per Olov Enquist (I promise to return it) is one I never would have thought to look for if I hadn't been helping move the books to ready the library for painting. Or maybe I would have: you can browse the hundreds of books at your own pace and find any number of unexpected interest to delight you.
So The Royal Physician's Visit. Set in the late 18th century in Denmark, its seed is the reign of King Christian VII. This is an historical novel, but the history is invisible. Enquist isn't interested (I don't think) in providing period details of ladies' finery or castles. Rather, he paints complicated and sensitive portraits of people who come to seem as vivid and real as people you know. He writes in multiple styles, drifting from classic story-telling to something resembling journalism, then jumping to sudden, abrupt descriptions and short choppy sentences punctuated with multiple question marks and exclamation points. Sometimes he circles around and comes back to literally repeat himself after having taken us to a different place. He weaves in ideas about madness, corruption, ambition, decency. He asks, through his characters, whether indeed the ideals of the Enlightenment which are supposed to be the foundation of our own nation can survive in the real world. Everything is turned upside down. Is evil necessary for good, not to provoke good, but simply for good to exist?
Well, enough. Please make it a point to visit the Book Exchange, especially after it is back together again. It'll sure save you some of the money you might spend on Kindle books.