Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"The book is still the highest delight."

Left: Carolina Book Rack, Greenville, SC.

After my library preachment last Monday, an email pointedly asks me WHAT do I have against Barnes & Noble? Other than the fact that they drive out independent bookstores, not a thing.

The fact is: I've spent many hours huddled up in used bookstore-corners, perusing stacks of true crime, scifi, fantasy, mindless celebrity-bios, forgotten literary classics and wonky political paperbacks. There is something thoroughly magic about used bookstores; that musty-page smell lets you know you're in for shelves of fun. I'll buy a biography of Roger Vadim for a buck, but I won't buy it new. (I guess it's like waiting for movies to come out on DVD!)

Some of my sentimental favorites:

Jackson Street Books - Athens, GA. A landmark in Bulldog country! An autographed poster lets you know that REM shops here, but I've never seen them.

Open Book - Greenville, SC. Your humble narrator's first job in the upstate was for this Greenville institution. New and used books share space with countless chronicles of the Old South.

Downtown Books and News - Asheville, NC. Trendier sister bookstore Malaprops gets all the attention and the hotshot writers (with accompanying Big Events), but funky DB&N is dusty, musty, plays old soul music, offers abandoned copies of socialist newspapers for free, and has old strips of theatre seats you can sit in while you read. After looking at clean new books at well-scrubbed, hardwood-floors Malaprops, walk a few blocks over to DB&N and join the truly cool.

The mother lode was Atlanta's Oxford Books, now sadly defunct. May it rest in peace. Like Malaprops/DB&N, there was a well-scrubbed upscale version, and a funky used incarnation called Oxford Too, at Peachtree-Battle. A day at the double-Oxfords was a Christmas pilgrimage for me and Mr Daisy, a gift we always gave ourselves. The demise of the store(s) pained us greatly.

Politics and Prose - Washington, DC. Almost as wonderful as the old Atlanta Oxfords, but too far away for me to visit regularly. Harumph, harumph.

I'd love to hear about your favorites, and add a link if possible!

Listening to: The Jesus and Mary Chain - The Living End
via FoxyTunes


Rosa said...

Nobody has a favorite used bookstore? I guess I'll have to add my 2¢ then:
Aveanue Victor Hugo-now closed. Back when it was at it's origonal location on Newbury St. Boston, I spent many hours there browsing the photography books. It was there I purchased nearly the whole Time Life book series on photography, from those I learned to develope film, print photos and was introduced to the works of Diane Arbus, Man Ray, etc. At Victor Hugo the shelves went from floor to ceiling. They played jazz (or NPR) on the radio and, at the time had a big yellow cat who lived there. They closed a few years ago, the rents got too high. It's a shame. Their website shows a grey cat:

Across the street from Victor Hugo is the Trident Bookstore, still in business. They're a new bookstore, but I think they did carry some used or discounted books years ago. I used to hang out in there reading, they had an extensive selection of magazines and a tasty cafe. At the register they always had cool impluse items like tarot cards, crystals, runes and tiny zen gardens. I haven't been in there in maybe 5 or so years, but I'm sure they haven't changed much.

Around the corner from both those stores was the Paperback Booksmith, if I remember the name correctly, they changed names over the years and later closed. New books, jazz, a couple of cats running around and a relaxed atmosphere like Victor Hugo. They had little stools you could sit on while you read.

Not my favorite, but well worth a mention is the Brattle Bookshop in downtown Boston. Great old store with a rickety old staircase leading to the second floor and lots of books. Not my favorite because they closed at 5:30-ish pm, which didn't give much browsing time. Victor Hugo would close around 10 or 11, Booksmith and Trident closed at 11pm.

Mary Beth said...

Rumaging through old posts, found my very favorite topic, used bookstores. The one I liked the most was mine in Hartwell. Mary Beth's Books. I was making a go out of it until the city blocked access to my store for three months while they put in a prettier sidewalk. Can you tell I'm still pissed? I sold my car to pay for the moving truck, weather proofed my front porch, and there sits 400 boxes of books. I want my store again, if anyone knows a nice friendly area. Where books are not described as the devil's tools. Reading fiction has been described to me as the road to hell. I use to call myself the same as a drug dealer, because I learned what my customers jones for, and would pull temptation out from under the counter, and watch their eyes widen. A lady would ride half an hour from Elberton if I found a Barbara Cartland book she hadn't read. Pete Dexter, Isaac Asomof(sp?),Dean Koontz. Everybody has their own taste. But the hunger for more of their favorites was universal. And I loved making them happy. People still stop me and ask if I have seen something they're looking for.Sometimes I have and I can help them and this connection between book people has been reaffirmed. I get hyper talking about a new book out, and the other person is excited too and hands are gesturing and voices are higher in pitch, and I love this. The people I work with see me with a customer like this and they smile and retreat. Ahh, but if you have on a real pretty pair of shoes, one lady will get pretty hyper herself on where you bought them, how much, and did the store have matching handbags. Everybody has their hot spots. Anything to do with books presses on mine. Thanks for letting me share.

dead island bloodbath arena said...

I used to shop for Zombie Books at the shop in Newbury!