Whiling away the hours in a USED-BOOK Shop
“Barnes & Noble” and “Borders Books” are modern, efficient and upscale . The personnel are trained to anticipate your every need and the shelves are filled to overflowing. The atmosphere is cool and the latte is hot. What more could you ask for?
“Lots”, say I, as I head off to the nearest independent used-book shop. I love these stores, even if they are hard to locate...often tucked down a side street or in the poorer part of town.
Perhaps the thing that I like the most is that these small book stores are anything but impersonal. Their owners are diverse and of different ages & genders, but they have one thing in common. They have a passion for books and they pass this along to their customers. I love to ask the custodians for their recommend-ations. This usually opens up a conversation that lasts for hours and gives me a new list of authors to choose from.
Used-book stores come in many varieties. Some are dingy and completely disorganized with books still in cartons, waiting to be shelved. Others are quaint and cozy and have the feel of your grandfather’s library. But, regardless of the ambience, you can rely on two things...that you will be left alone to browse to your heart’s content and that you will leave with a bag full of books at bargain prices.
I think the most unusual store of this sort that I ever visited was the “Parnassus Book Service” in Yarmouthport on Cape Cod. It is located in a three-story 1840 building that was formerly a general store. The aisles are crammed with stacks of books that reach all the way to the tin ceiling but there is a general attempt at organization.
The first section of the store has new books but it’s in the inner recesses where you will find the “treasures”. I spent the better part of a day rummaging through the three floors and even found an area replete with portfolios of posters, prints and maps.
But, the thing that really impressed me about “Parnassus” was the outdoor book stall attached to one side of the building and protected from the weather by a small roof and two rudimentary walls. The shelves are packed with all types of books and the stall is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and works on the honor system. You simply choose your books, tally up the cost and leave the money in the mail slot !
Now, that’s MY kind of bookstore.