One of the perks of this job is that I can set aside a few favorite stories for myself to report and write each month. That's how I got to meet George Bauman, owner of Acorn Bookshop. Spoiler alert: We think Acorn is one of the best things about Columbus.

One of the perks of this job is that I can set aside a few favorite stories for myself to report and write each month. That's how I got to meet George Bauman, owner of Acorn Bookshop. Spoiler alert: We think Acorn is one of the best things about Columbus.

George and I bonded right away; my first job was at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, back in the '90s when Barnes & Noble and Borders were threatening (and eventually closing) independent bookstores. George remembers the era well. He worked at Nickleby's Bookstore Cafe in Grandview before it closed in 1995. He was at the ready with book recommendations, and we chatted about the technological and societal changes that have rocked our respective livelihoods. We both still believe in the power of the printed word, and it seems we're not alone: The American Booksellers Association reports the number of member independent bookstores increased more than 20 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Chatting with George in his store-he in a brimmed hat, surrounded by books and the irreplaceable patina of a store that has been in place for a long time-took me back to my first visit to Columbus in February 2011. I was interviewing for a job at Columbus Alive, and the interrogation portion of the exercise was over. I was exhausted but hopeful and had a few hours to kill before my flight. I wandered into the North Market first, to have the Jeni's experience. While wandering the market, I ran into a woman who would become my co-worker several weeks later. She encouraged me to head north to the Wexner Center for the Arts before my trip home-she guaranteed I'd love it, and she praised it as one of Columbus' brightest gems. She was right, of course!

After finishing my ice cream, I browsed shops in the Short North. The merchandise was fine, but what really struck me was people were chatting in the stores. They knew each other from the neighborhood. This was an intoxicating discovery for a child of the sprawling, transient Chicago suburbs. It was hard to reconcile the shoppers' familiarity with the cluster of skyscrapers a mile down the road. What was this magical big city with the personality of a small town?

Now, four years later, it's me doing the chatting in stores, like I did with George a couple weeks ago. When I return to Acorn Bookshop, and I will return, to get lost and absorb more of George's enthusiasm about his latest favorite book, we'll greet one another by name. And that, to me, is the best of Columbus.