Two years ago, Melanie Moore looked out her kitchen window and saw a 1962 Volkswagen Transporter. The vehicle had been sitting in her driveway for years, but she suddenly saw it in a new light. Moore was in the middle of reading Christopher Morley’s 1917 novel Parnassus on Wheels, the story of a fictional horse-drawn bookseller.
Moore, a newly retired schoolteacher of 25 years, always dreamed of opening her own bookstore. She was even in the process of signing a lease for a brick-and-mortar store when Parnassus on Wheels fell into her hands.
Moore opened up the first chapter and read: “As he spoke he released a hook somewhere, and raised the whole side of his wagon like a flap. Some kind of catch clicked, the flap remained up like a roof, displaying nothing but books—rows and rows of them. The flank of his van was nothing but a big bookcase. Shelves stood above shelves, all of them full of books—both old and new.”
Though it’s mobile, The Book Bus remains in and around Cincinnati on most days. | Photo courtesy of Melanie Moore
Moore paused, looked out the window and thought, “I could make that my bookstore.” She liked the idea of being able to run it whenever she wanted, from anywhere. “From that point, it was a year or so into getting it up and running,” Moore says.
Stumble upon the Book Bus before an event and you’ll find the exact same scene that’s depicted in Parnassus on Wheels: Before each event, Moore parks The Book Bus and unhooks the 100 percent cotton tarp of her VW Transporter, folding it up to reveal rows and rows of books.