Liz Mason of Quimby's shares zines on Instagram. Credit: Courtesy Quimbys/Instagram

A leisurely record store browse, a bartender’s recommendation, an unplanned run-in with a friend—pandemic life lacks these moments of happenstance. 

There’s no real replacement for digging through zines at Quimby’s Bookstore. The beloved store is open at limited capacity right now, but I live two bus transfers across town. Luckily, they’ve devised a pandemic-era innovation. They started selling Qustomized Quimby’s Zine Packages. 

It works like this: When you order a Zine Package online, you submit a list of your interests in the comment section. Then a Quimby’s zine expert curates $25 of periodicals to match your desires. (There are also $69 and $100 options.) They wrap it up in black plastic, and when you receive it, you get a little dose of staple-bound mystery and surprise. 

The first time I ordered a Qustomized Zine Package, I listed “dumb pop culture, diaries, and classic children’s books” in the comment section. Among my new treasures, I received a copy of cutesy journal comic Flowery by Mel Stringer, a vintage Dr. Dolittle coloring book, and minizine Piscean Footnotes #2: A Quaranzine by Lynne Monsoon, handwritten in miniscule font with a plastic magnifying glass attached to the binding. The order was both specific and unpredictable. I felt like I was having a conversation with my favorite bookstore, from the safety of my couch. 

In days scheduled with Zoom cocktails and grocery deliveries, a Quimby’s Zine Package offered the rare opportunity for shock and delight in 2020. I hope Quimby’s keeps offering them, even after we’re all vaccinated and safely packing into the bookstore’s photo booth once again.