Parnassus on Wheels is really one of those perfect little books that you never expected to read. I got it last Christmas, and have been enjoying the look of it on my shelf, where it has sat since, unread. It's a lovely little 1955 hardcover, illustrated by Douglas Gorsline, and smelling pleasantly of Old Book. The story, by Christopher Morley, was first published in 1917, and is pretty much perfect.
Parnassus is Roger Mifflin's travelling bookshop, pulled by Peg the horse, with Bock the dog along for the ride. Mifflin, often called the Professor, is a funny, wise little man who travels through New England preaching a love of books and selling them. The story is narrated by Helen McGill, a middle-aged spinster, who meets the Professor one morning and decides to buy Parnassus and take up the bookselling life herself. Adventures ensue, naturally, of the sort one expects to find by the side of the road, fisticuffs and weather and so on. All of it, meanwhile, backed by a love of books and a need to hit the road once in a while, and see the world from a different angle. This is what Helen McGill does, and it changes her life thoroughly for the better.
This is a short book, only 160 pages, which didn't take me very long to read. This is sort of a perfect length, as it leaves you wanting more, but also knowing that more would make it a less perfect story. It's also a book that plays to almost everything I want out of a story--bookishness, domesticity, adventure, love. Parnassus on Wheels is one of those books which I am profoundly glad to have read.
Also, it occurs to me now that this qualifies for the Bibliophilic Books Challenge, which I signed up for back in December.