Rolling Pages

By Cassandra Castillo

A Little Bookish is a portable library truck that’s promoting the benefits of reading to people around the Chattanooga area. Once an elementary school teacher from Michigan, owner Miranda Atkins, is now making a difference in her own unique way—one page at a time.

Often sitting in the driver seat of her white step van, Miranda Atkins flips through the pages of her latest novel, waiting for a customer to walk onto her teal steps in search of a new read. 

Atkins, the owner of A Little Bookish, thrives on selling books simply out of her love for reading.

“I just think it’s a healthy escapism when everything else is not going the way you wanted or is stressful, you can kind of escape into a book,” Miranda said. 

Nestled in Ooltewah, Tennessee, her family-run business began as a passion project in a brick-and-mortar store in 2018 with the help of her husband and co-owner Chris Atkins. Her youngest daughter helped run the store, which hosted book clubs and various guest readers. Atkins said the family of five “built it together.” 

However, with the pressures of  COVID-19 and the expiration on their bookstore lease approaching, they decided to venture into a new business style: a mobile shop. Inspired by the mobility of food trucks, they obtained and remodeled a step van that could house hundreds of books in the near future. 

Held together with bungee cords, the books remain in place as the van moves from one location to the next. Large subdivisions or community events guide their route nearly every weekend. Customers range from a child scouting for their next bedtime story to an adult looking to find their next leisure novel. A true bookworm, Miranda is open to suggesting books or simply interchanging opinions with her shoppers.

Miranda said, books are “such a good icebreaker for conversations, there’s never an awkward silence because if nothing else, we go back and talk about the book.”

The colorful assortment of books aligning the weighed down wooden shelves are managed by Miranda, who personally orders them from her local book distributor in Nashville or directly from publishers. Catering her choices based on customer interest and book world trends, she ensures that A Little Bookish features a wide variety of novels.

“It’s fascinating to me when I take it to a different town, and they’re buying different books than the people in my town,” Miranda said. “It’s exciting to me to see that, and so, I definitely always want to keep the mobile model going, even if we do at some point have a more permanent location.” 

Formerly an elementary school educator, Miranda has thought about opening a second truck with only children’s books that could potentially go to schools. The family has also considered a more permanent location, but Miranda feels passionate about the mobile model offering the possibility of an additional van. 

“Sometimes I think about having a physical store again, but I really liked this model and love the ability to take it to different places and meet different kinds of readers,” Miranda said. 

Despite her long standing relationship with books, Miranda said she actually did not enjoy reading as much as a child.

“It’s always been something that I liked, but not something that I really loved, I would say, until my later teens,” she said. “I always say that The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the book that made me a reader.” 

Now, she loves to read and hopes that she can pass that passion to her children, as her mother once did for her. 

“You have to let your kids read what they want to read, and I think that’s the biggest struggle. I have people come in all the time and they say, ‘My kid won’t read anything but Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ and that’s okay, let them read it 400 times; they’re reading and they’re going to experience it at a different level as they get older.”

Trying to force children to read things they are not interested in will dampen their love of reading, she added. 

Her unique take on bookselling has allowed her to socialize with other shop owners at expos or conferences. At these events, booksellers share their “best practices” on how they are able to succeed. Booksellers don’t keep secrets from each other, she said. 

To many of them, including Miranda, it is important to have a bookstore in the community, and with a mobile shop she is able to take it to places that may not already house one. Bookstores tend to bring a sense of unity through a common interest: a good book. 

“I don’t want to own all the bookstores in the world,” she said. “I just want there to be bookstores in all the world.”

Cassandra Castillo spoke with Miranda Atkins about her passion for reading and creating a space for people to find community within her five book clubs. The members have strong connections with each other, allowing the reading to bring them to a common ground. Atkins’ book store is in Ooltewah, and while the book clubs are reaching their quota of members, she is working on making more room for more clubs and members. More information can be found on their website.

Meet the Storyteller

Cassandra Castillo is a junior Communication major with minors in Spanish and International Studies at UT Chattanooga. She hopes to give a voice to the voiceless through visual and written storytelling around the world. Cassandra works as a writer for the University Echo, video editor for Mocs News, and editor for the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs. For questions or collaboration with Cassandra, contact xmx829@mocs.utc.edu

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