Friday, January 26, 2007

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this!! I am a used bookstore fan as well, even though I worked at Barnes and Noble for several years! We have one locally that is fantastic. The owner is a young girl (less than 30) who is SO well-read. She always has fantastic suggestions. She has good taste in staff as well - eclectic people and eclectic books!! Great!!

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you! Used bookstores are the greatest places. The smell, the feel of the old books ~ everything about them!

Reminds me of a book I read one time called "84 Charing Cross Road".



8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more, and I love their unique smell.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

We have a used book store in this town. It's so crammed full and dilapidated that it's scary.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Maya's Granny said...

In San Francisco and Seattle there are used bookstores which specialize. Mysteries or cookbooks or science fiction. It is just heaven.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

I can NEVER just scurry past a bookstore, I am defivitely a sucker for the smell of nice paper:)
When I get the chance I go into town to our large shop called Borders Bookstore, there is a cafe accompanying the store too, just love it.
Love the idea of a 24hr honor system stall, how wonderful.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in complete agreement! I love used book stores. You meet the most interesting people and find good bargains in the process.

My son goes to one in Colorado that is really amazing. We spent the better part of an afternoon there last time I was in town. It is fairly well organized (for the most part) and absolutely huge. The owner is very interesting and really knows books.

Much better than Borders or Barnes and Nobles in my opinion.

4:06 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

I followed a link in another blog and came upon your blog. I have gone back, and read a fair number of your prior postings. It makes no sense to post on things you wrote "back then" but I have enjoyed reading them and "getting to know you" a bit.
On the subject of independent book-stores, whether used or not, I totally agree. The best bookstore I was ever in was in Montpelier, Vermont. A lovely old store with wooden floors that were wavy, they were so old. Books stacked to the ceiling, comfy chairs to invite folks to sit and browse (long before any of the chains thought of that) and the smell--heavenly.
Thanks for the reminder!

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you know I feel the same as you about book stores. LOVE them....the small, indie ones.
I would have loved the one at Cape Cod. I'll be down in Sarasota again in a few weeks, doing book signings at some more small, independent ones. I love B&N. However, I also love the personal touches of the privately owned ones.....complete with kitties.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Ginnie I also love used books.

My neighborhood library has a book sale once a month; not used library books but ones that are donated by other readers. I can spend hours browsing through their stacks and tables of books and have discovered some authors I would otherwise never have read.
Elizabeth George comes to mind. She writes excellent British mysteries although she is American. Many many others. The books are priced so reasonably and when I am finished I re-donate them back for the next book sale.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

Thanks for all the great comments. I do the same as Chancy...get the books for a pittance and then give them back to our little library in town here. They have a "for sale" table for the overflow and I love to go through it. Paper backs for 25 Cents, hardcover 50 Cents and
magazines for 10 cents each.!!!

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ginnie, hear, hear! We have one -- Paul's Books -- that has been in the same location for at least 30 years. What I especially love is that the owner (Paul's wife now; Paul died suddenly a number of years ago) takes out the little snippets of things she finds in the books she buys at auctions, estate sales, etc. -- you know, the miscellaneous things that people stick in for book marks -- and tacks them up on the walls all around the shop. And she has a shop dog, a corgi, my favorite kind of dog!

I was at Borders the other evening, a rare visit to a non-independent book store, and what struck me is that although they have acres of books, the selection was not all that great.

84 Charing Cross Road is the best, by the way! Good book, good movie.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ginnie, I share your love of used book stores. we haunt ed mckay's in greensboro frequently. while you can be almost assured of finding what you're looking for in a chain store, you can be just as sure that you'll find something you didn't even know you were looking for in one of these cool little stores.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ginnie, one of the saddest developments in Manhattan is the disappearance of what used to be called 4th Ave. (It's been absorbed into the southern segment of Madison Ave.) The old 4th Ave. used to be lined with used book stores and was a delightful place to explore when I was a college kid attending NYU in nearby Greenwich Village. It looked very sterile when I was last in the neighborhood. And thanks for your comment on my posting about Islamic society. I fully agree with your view of the situation.

12:49 PM  

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