To the literature lovers who hang around the literary Internet boards, The Paradox Bookstore is the place with the quirky wooden sign outside, inviting you to take a book if you find the place closed, and to take one for free if you are short of cash. You know it, I’m sure you do, you’ve seen it on a million Pinterest boards.
To Tom Stobart, the Paradox Bookstore was his life’s work. As the website’s homepage states, Stobart opened Paradox Books as a 20-year-old playwright more than 40 years ago, making it the oldest bookshop in West Virginia.
Today, via the same Facebook connections we discovered his store, we have discovered that Tom Stobart has sadly died, as announced on the store’s Facebook page yesterday.
Originally The Paradox Bookstore was just a bit of fun, to pass the time until Stobart went back to New York, but he ended up staying in Wheeling, West Virginia and went on to run the shop for almost 40-years.
It’s not The Strand, New York, and it’s not Foyles of London, but this little shop with its little sign outside became a beacon for bookworms the world over, a code of practice almost. It was the literary picture that told us bookworms were kind, that they could be trusted, and that even though the world is big, we could all come together over one ethos, take a free book if you cannot afford one.
Maybe Tom will never know how much he touched people around the world, maybe he knew full well. The picture of The Paradox Bookstore found by me not long after I launched this website became the inspiration for our independent bookshop section, and the Paradox Bookstore was one of the first listings in it.
We’re sure Tom Stobart will be sadly missed by the people of West Virginia, but the Paradox Bookstore will remain open, and hopefully books will still remain in the porch for those that need them.