Rare Book Monthly
To Costa Rica and Back, Again
By Karen Wright
We are back again after two months in the lovely country of Costa Rica. Three years ago, after our first trip, I did a couple of stories about book shopping in Costa Rica and came to the conclusion that there weren't a whole lot of readers there. That still holds true to some extent for most Costa Ricans, but this time I discovered several new and interesting bookstores that cater to fiction-starved ex-pats and tourists.
We covered a whole lot more of the country this time, from 10,000 foot peaks to hot, muggy jungles, to Pacific seashores, to rich farmland. We saw monkeys, snakes, an ocelot, a pair of pumas, a crocodile, an alligator, a zillion vividly-colored birds, bugs in all sizes, shapes, and colors, and some amazing frogs. The country is so varied that one could pick just about any type of climate and find it there. In some ways, it was very difficult to come home, but one thing they don't have is a proper high desert, and we are, after all, desert rats. They also have the world's most annoying showerheads, commonly referred to as "suicide showers," probably because after using them for a while you want to commit suicide (or murder).
Our most infuriating mishap was when my backpack was stolen right from under a chair (while I was sitting in it) in a bus station. The worst part was that our camera was in it, so I apologize for the quality of the accompanying pictures. Otherwise they got dirty laundry and, woe is me, my supply of unread paperbacks, curse them! So, we bought a couple of throw-away cameras and replaced the lost clothes at one of the Ropa Americanas, great little clothing stores that carry seconds and second hand American clothing for $1.00 to $3.00. It was easy to replace T-shirts, a sweater, and a couple of pairs of pedal pushers.
But, where to find something to read! So, we revisited Morro Books in the capital city of San Jose. Last time we were there it was just a funky, badly lit, and poorly laid out bookstore with nothing to recommend it and barely any books worth reading. This time, however, they had moved to another building. The store didn't look like much from the outside (that's typical of C.R.), but inside it had possibilities. The layout and stock were both greatly improved. They were still in the process of unpacking hundreds of boxes of books, but had a very good selection of what I call "traveler's books" which included a number of English language paperback mysteries that we had not read. I also found a first edition of one of my favorite mystery writers, Jacqueline Winspear; the first of the Maisie Dobbs series. They have a decent selection of nearly new and used books which includes some Costa Rica travel books. Sometimes, you may also find the New York Times and/or the Washington Post. They do a reader's exchange and carry some good foreign language tomes.