Wild Books, Homeless Books
March 30, 2006 7:54 AM   Subscribe

Sudden capricious friendship with secondhand books -- a lovely little tribute to quiet expansive pleasures by Virginia Woolf. Where do used books find you? [via the ever-marvelous wood s lot]
posted by digaman (33 comments total)
This is one of my favorites -- Tim's Used Books, tucked away down a wooden path off of Commercial Street in Provincetown, at the end of Cape Cod.
posted by digaman at 7:57 AM on March 30, 2006

David Ishii, bookseller - only went there once, but the place seems to have a interesting history. I get quite a few of my books at the Seattle Goodwill; $.49 a paperback.
posted by iamck at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2006

Wow, that place sounds great. When I was a student at Oberlin, the archetypal used bookshop was Coventry Books in Cleveland., with endless shadowy stacks of wonder and pamphlets by poet's poet d.a. levy. I can't find a website for it -- I wonder if it's still there.
posted by digaman at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2006

Sam Weller/Zion Bookstore on Main St. in Salt Lake City, Dickson St. Bookstore in Fayetteville, Ark.; Abebooks.com
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2006

James Wood wrotes that when Woolf's collected essays come out, it'll be the most impressive collection of critical essays of the 20th century. Does anyone know when it's going to happen?
posted by kensanway at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2006

I second Pressed Rat's Sam Weller's reccomend. But I used to work there...
posted by punkbitch at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2006

I tend to favor used bookstores that have both ratty old fantasy paperbacks and out-of-print nonfiction tomes.

Used bookstores have I loved:
Read It Again Sam - Charlottesville, VA
Daedalus Books - "" ""
Twice Sold Tales - Farmington, ME
posted by selfnoise at 9:03 AM on March 30, 2006

Twice Told Books in Louisville, Ky.
12th Street Books in New York City.
posted by 235w103 at 9:14 AM on March 30, 2006

Smith College Used Book Sale at Timonium Fairgrounds in Maryland this Saturday - 10am to 6pm.
posted by campheatwole at 9:34 AM on March 30, 2006

Myopic Books, Providence
William Stout Books, San Francisco
Zero Books, Los Angeles
Powell's, Portland
Million Year Picnic, Cambridge, MA
posted by xod at 9:36 AM on March 30, 2006

John W. Doull, Bookseller
Halifax, NS
posted by JanetLand at 9:41 AM on March 30, 2006

I used to live over the Montclair Book Center (NJ). Not sure why I ever moved. . .
posted by katie at 9:56 AM on March 30, 2006

In Berkeley, Moe's.
posted by digaman at 10:01 AM on March 30, 2006

Reposted from a comment on metachat:

Here I got a good story about a used bookstore in Carroll Gardens.

There is this crazy, dusty used bookstore in Carroll Gardens, the dude who owns it has a crazy gnarled up hand and smokes Moore cigarettes and takes month long vacations and he's cranky as hell. Great store. I was in there one time and this pretty lifestyle hippie girl walks in with the long flowing skirt and the beads and the purse made out of hemp and the whole deal and she marches up to the old man at the counter and says [kinda high pitched dreamy hippie tofu loaf voice] "Hi, do you have that book about the Buddha, the one called... uh... Sidhartha? I can't find it, who is it by?"

and the old man kinda pops his eyes out of his head and waves his brown cigarette around and then shouts [sorta of a super sterotypical New York old school Brooklyn Jewish dude voice, all loud and the words all run together] "Sidhartha? By Herman Hesse? You call yourself a hippie? Get out of my store!"

I fucking died laughing.

It's this store.

Community Bookstore
212 Court St., at Warren St.

I love books, I loooovvvee used books and I love used bookstores. Thanks for the post.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:12 AM on March 30, 2006

posted by digaman at 10:24 AM on March 30, 2006

digaman: Coventry Books is gone, but Mac's Backs currently reigns on Coventry. They have a great selection of literary magazines and used books. A poster of levy looms in the back and the staff is made up of obvious book lovers who can actually discuss books and authors at length, something I never encounter in those massive chain stores.
posted by Kronoss at 10:26 AM on March 30, 2006

Re: Where do used books find you?

At Keith Fawkes Bookshop, 1-3 Flask Walk, London NW3 1HJ tel: 02074350614 that is infused with the aroma of musty pages.

I have three first editions from this shop and regiments of Green, Proust, Bulgakov and...and...and...lots more.

I gasp with joy it is still with us for the lot of the independent bookseller in London is perilous.
posted by Schroder at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2006

thanks for the post!
posted by matteo at 11:16 AM on March 30, 2006

Lost bookshops of my youth: Sanders of Oxford, Thomas Thorp of Guildford (where I bought my first seventeenth-century book), Traylen's of Guildford, Tom Crowe of Norwich, the Castle Bookshop of Colchester .. all gone, gone ..

Berkeley residents: can someone tell me whether Serendipity Books lives up to its legendary reputation?

kensanway: 4 volumes of Woolf's collected essays have already been published (edited by Andrew McNeillie), so there's plenty to read while you wait for the remaining volumes to appear (though personally I've never found her essays much to my taste). For a less romantic view of secondhand bookshops, of course, you have to turn to George Orwell.

On preview: Schroder, I remember Keith Fawkes' bookshop from twenty years ago, and it wasn't infused with the aroma of musty pages, it was infused with the aroma of gin. The manager was an alcoholic, and used to sit in the back-room all day knocking back tumblerfuls of the stuff.
posted by verstegan at 11:24 AM on March 30, 2006

I attended a job interview on the eastern edge of Richmond Green, SW London, in 1997 with a consultant firm that acquired the lease on Ms Woolf's old house. The consultant advisor kindly gave me a tour of the building. I have seen the lady's living room; I have dallied in the boudoir that may still carry echoes of the lady's rumpy pumpy with girlfriend Vita Sackville-West; I have sipped tea in her old kitchen. Whilst I did not get the job I returned from the interview waxing lyrical and my g/f said the event changed me.

Quoting the article kindly provided, "an unknown traveller, who stayed at inns, drank his pint, noted pretty girls and serious customs, wrote it all down stiffly, laboriously for sheer love of it" - sums up my own literary limitation and my publisher would wholeheartedly agree.
- - -

Re: "Lost bookshops of my youth / verstegan"

My vac. jobs for two years was at Thornton's bookshop then in Broad Street when I was importantly charged with mailing learned periodicals across the world. Bliss.
posted by Schroder at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2006

Schroder: Serendipity has the real stuff, and is as cavernous and stacked-to-the-ceiling as one might imagine. But it's also completely disorganized, which gives one the nervous feeling when one is browsing that the One Most Amazing Find is just around the corner, at the bottom of a shelf, where one will miss it.
posted by digaman at 11:51 AM on March 30, 2006

Seconding selfnoise--Charlottesville VA is a great place to browse, if only because many of the used and antique bookstores are within walking distance (but you forgot Heartwood and Blue Whale! I'll never forget the time I picked up about ten paperbacks formerly owned by Richard Rorty from the latter around the time he was moving to California. His favorite comment? "Bosh!")

Oh, and that used bookstore next to Eastern Market in DC. What's that place called, other than "Used Bookstore" anyways? A fun place as well.
posted by bardic at 12:11 PM on March 30, 2006

matteo, Flask Walk is one of my favorite little spots in the world.
posted by digaman at 12:40 PM on March 30, 2006

Connecticut has great used books: If you are going up the coast to Rhode Island or the Cape, there's the Book Barn, originally recommended to me on AskMe. If you're taking the 84 to Boston, there's the Traveler Book Retaurant in Union. They give you free books & have an excellent basement store. There's also a place on the Cape that has loads of old pulp stuff, but I have no idea what it's called.
posted by dame at 1:36 PM on March 30, 2006

Is Serendipity all that? I went twice and it was closed both times. Isn't Moe's not just the best book store in Berkeley, but--gasp!--in the world?

I have to say I'm disappointed with most of the NY bookstores I've been to.

Virginia Woolf - is it worth buying this if I already have, like, Rainbow and Granite, The Moment, etc.?
posted by kensanway at 1:45 PM on March 30, 2006

My favorite bookstore is in a small town some miles north of here, and with the trees just budding it’s a green and pretty drive. If I were to tell you how to find it, I’d encourage you to wait until later spring or summer, because it’s in a dimly lit, unheated building. It’s only open Saturdays, and only if the proprietor chooses to be there, or if you have the patience to wait to see if he’ll come back.

He’s an old hippie who smokes a constant pipe and will occasionally comment on your conversation or choices in a finely cultured voice. Most of his collection is dumped there by local libraries and estates. The books are roughly grouped by subject and shelved, piled on the floor, the chairs, anywhere they’ll fit.

I have found early printings of Light in August and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit; a Jack London collection from World War II in its original jacket with a publisher’s note explaining it had been their patriotic duty to condense it and print it on slightly inferior paper; and my favorite, an original volume from The World of Art series. I paid a dollar or two for each hardback and nothing for the volume from The World of Art, because the proprietor has selected a number of books he will give away for the asking to the first person who wants them, and I was the first person in ten years who wanted it. It is the most beautiful book in my possession.

Everywhere I've ever been there are places off the main roads where people keep little stores that are really about their obsessions, and having a place to spend their days and meet people of the same mind. They will press things into your hand for free because you love them like they do. They will sit in unheated buildings waiting for your conversation. When you are lucky enough to find them, you either tell everyone you know, or keep it to yourself. Mostly, I keep this one to myself. It was shown to me by someone who gave it to me unexpectedly, like a surprise gift, and I find it hard -- too hard -- to draw a map to it without wanting to bury it afterwards.
posted by melissa may at 1:56 PM on March 30, 2006

Baltimore has the fantastic Book Thing. FREE used books, no shit. Everybody from grandma looking for romance novels and kid stuff to punk kids looking through the poli-sci. Russ who runs the thing is a classic. Big burly bearded gruff guy, sees people leaving with only eight or nine books and screams "What?! Take some more books! What?! Are you illiterate or something!"
posted by zoinks at 4:15 PM on March 30, 2006

dame, did you ever go to the Whistle Stop, in Stratford, in its heyday? They've moved and ditched a lot of stuff, so it's nothing special anymore -- but when it was good, it was very very good.

In New York, I go to the Strand. Yeah, how passé, I know -- but next time, don't even go inside. Forget the dollar carts, too. Go as far east on 12th as they're set up, and there you'll find the holy grail: five books for $2. Complete turnover takes about two or three weeks, and there's always something weird and fascinating.

I live a couple of blocks away from the Strand Annex, and if they had a five-for-$2 deal too, I'd be spending about $10 a week on it. And that's just crazy money.
posted by booksandlibretti at 5:16 PM on March 30, 2006

booksandlibretti, having just been to The Strand for the first time a week and half ago, I can safely say that Powell's in Portland, OR beats them to a pulp.

I second Moe's as being a wonderful place. I miss walking in there when Moe was still alive. He would be singing along in his top volume to some Indian song. Good times.

If you live in the East Bay I highly recommend checking out Gray Wolf Books in San Leandro. I haven't been there in a while, and it might have gone down hill since the owner passed away, but it is a massive warehouse of books.
posted by blackvectrex at 6:34 PM on March 30, 2006

Also see: Gray Wolf Books. I missed the site in my first search.
posted by blackvectrex at 6:41 PM on March 30, 2006

Actually there are somewhere between 30 million and 150 million unique books - not an endless amount. We can only hope to read 3 to 10 thousand in a lifetime, but we can read about, and know about, and look at, a far greater number, which I guess is the intangible secret of bookstores and libraries.
posted by stbalbach at 7:01 PM on March 30, 2006

Yeah, Gray Wolf is awesome! I was totally thinking of mentioning that.

I don't really like the Strand. Sure it has a lot of stuff, but I usually can't find what I'm looking for (typically not terribly obscure stuff)--a million books and mostly junk!--and it's sort of dirty, crowded, and stressful. It doesn't have the charming finds the same way the smaller bookstores in park slope do...
posted by kensanway at 7:08 PM on March 30, 2006

I like the Strand not so much for the books I buy there or for the atmosphere of a traditional used bookstore, but for its distinctive New Yorky hyper everythingtoomuchatonce energy, and the fact that there are always a ridiculous number of sexy people with brains shopping there.
posted by digaman at 6:11 AM on March 31, 2006

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