The Book Bus Is the Cutest Bookstore on Wheels

Melanie Moore’s Book Bus is on a mission to connect kids with books they can call their own.

Photograph by Lance Adkins

Melanie Moore always dreamed of opening a bookstore. After 25 years of teaching at inner city schools in St. Louis, L.A., and Cincinnati, she finally decided to pursue her lifelong goal. In the months leading up to her spring 2017 retirement, she began researching possible storefronts, devising a business plan, and meeting with booksellers in New York City and Cincinnati. She even attended a week-long bookselling training workshop in Florida and almost signed a lease for an Oakley storefront, but something stopped her. “I was afraid I’d be stuck back in the office doing all the paperwork and I wouldn’t be up front talking books with people,” Moore says. So she shifted her focus to opening a mobile bookstore, and in December 2018, The Book Bus hosted its first pop-up event.

“Even though you have all the electronics and everything’s digital nowadays, there’s nothing like owning your own book.”

Moore’s “bus” is a mint green 1962 Volkswagen truck with a canvas cover protecting eight wooden crates filled with mint-condition adult fiction books that she finds during her travels and by “digging” in bookstores. She parks her truck and talks books with customers at flea markets, pop-ups, and private events across the city. Her main goal: “Delivering the joy of owning books to inspire a passion for reading.” This includes getting books into the hands of “kids who need them most.” In May, Moore volunteered with the seventh annual Ride for Reading Cincinnati event, part of a national program that donates books to children in low-income schools and neighborhoods via volunteers on bicycles. Using proceeds from her book sales, Moore bought $500 worth of children’s books from the Blue Manatee Literacy Project to donate to this year’s event, which benefitted South Avondale Elementary. Blue Manatee, a children’s bookstore that reopened in April as a nonprofit, donates one book to a local at-risk student for every book sold, making Moore’s $500 purchase a “total win-win” for the community, she says.

Through The Book Bus, Moore has also connected with local teachers to help curate and catalog their schools’ libraries, and she plans to continue using her proceeds to buy books for children in need. “Being a teacher and mother, you see how important books can be,” she says. “Even though you have all the electronics and everything’s digital nowadays, there’s nothing like owning your own book, so I really want to get kids books to reread and have on their shelves.”

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