From the outside, Grey Matter Books is imposing with its unadorned awning and an eerie baby doll holding a “WE’RE OPEN” sign in the corner that warrants a second look when walking down York. Step inside and the gloomy storefront gives way to a cozy shop with uneven wooden floors and haphazard stacks of used books behind the window. The shelves are packed, curated by demand. Then there are the free books. Cardboard boxes and milk crates just inside the entrance are filled with them, to be taken at will. I wonder if the fluctuations in consumer demand cause them to be demoted to the corner.
Crouching near the front door, I rifled carefully through the crates. Children’s books, theory books, books in languages I do not know, and books in a language I am still learning have all found themselves in the same home. I take four: an analysis of The Bible’s Genesis, though I am not religious; an independently published poetry book, though I don’t read poetry; humorous short stories in Portuguese, though I only just started learning the language; a study of the lives of women in the twentieth century, though I was born in the twenty-first. If something is free, might as well give it a try.