Firsthand | Experiences with aging

By Carol Urness

I am blessed with a lifelong passion for books. My parents, both “book people,” read stories to my sister and me. Through reading I discovered friends from different times and places tucked within book covers. I wrote my first novel, Blood and Gold, at age 11. Decades later I set type for and hand-printed many small books. My love of books never left me.

As curator of the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, I had the best job imaginable. I taught in the Department of History and the Library School. I traveled Europe seeking acquisitions for the library. I authored or edited 15 books. And I met interesting people every day. Retiring was the hardest thing I ever did, since much of my identity depended on being a professor at the University. 

After retiring, I opened a bookshop called Corner Books to downsize my large personal book collection. It was only “for a year or two,” but two years turned into four, and now it has been open for 18 years. The bookshop is also my writing office. One result is Minnesota on the Map, written in collaboration with geographer David Lanegran.

The bookshop brings visitors for many reasons: A woman searching for a blue Bible of 1940, an artist seeking inspiration from books about shells, a man wanting a “great” book about llamas for his granddaughter, a retired fisherman looking for books to help him fulfill his dream of sailing around the world. And I won’t forget the man who came the first time (of many) dressed like Abe Lincoln, wanting books to help in his impersonations! 

Being an Internet bookseller brings contact with book people from all over the world, some of whom become friends. We keep a map: our most recent “new” places are Jakarta and Lithuania. The friendships I maintain because of the bookstore make me very grateful. 

A state of gratitude, I believe, is one of the most important paths to the enjoyment of aging. From the bookshop I have learned to take time to enjoy the small things, to slow down, to smile, and even to laugh. 

You may wonder why I look so happy. Now you know.



The election of UMRA officers and new board members for 2024–25 will be conducted via an online poll from May 13 to 19, with the results to be announced at our annual meeting on May 21. Look for the ballot in your email inbox on May 13. Diane Young has been nominated to be president-elect.