Mimsy: Books

Sydney, Nova Scotia: Ed’s Books and More—Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Ed’s Books and More is a great unpretentious used bookstore on the main street just up from the docks in Sydney. If you’re looking for it coming up from a cruise ship you can’t miss it.

Organization is spotty; shelves are well-packed; and they have a wide variety. They have a lot of old science fiction paperbacks from the likes of Andre Norton and Leigh Bracket; a lot of biographies; and popular literary fiction.

Somewhat ironically, I found a copy of Mark Steyn’s America Alone. Ironically, because the reason I was in Sydney was for the SteynAtSea cruise, and I’d expected to pick up a copy of this book from the Steyn team. But the cruise was set up as entertainment for the guests, not as a way for Mark to hawk his wares, and so they didn’t have his books on sale there. If only they’d had a copy of Broadway Babies Say Goodnight!

None of the other books were on my list, but Ethan Canin is always a good read, the concept of Joseph Gies’s Bridges and Men seems like just the right way to cover the history of bridges, I’ve been meaning to read more Haggard, and Newspaper Row sounds like a great companion to Deadlines & Monkeyshines: The Fabled World of Chicago Journalism.

The store appears to be a bit of a local hangout. I sent an hour and a half browsing books—deciding what was worth dragging down to Boston and then across to Texas—and it seemed as though every couple of minutes someone would walk in and be greeted by name.

He was also friendly to strangers. When he added up my purchases, he rounded everything down to the nearest dollar—and then threw in the most expensive book (which wasn’t expensive at all—only $4.50 Canadian) for free. If I am ever back in Sydney, I will make sure to visit Ed’s again, and to have more Canadian cash in my wallet—and more space available in my luggage for books. It may well be that if I visit Sydney again it will be because of Ed’s.

Up to this point I had managed to restrain myself from overloading on books, mindful of the flight home. These five, three of them hardcovers, filled the remaining space in my tote bag to the top. I had to be very picky at the rest of my stops, after shopping Ed’s. If you’re a book-lover and you find yourself in Sydney, you owe yourself a stop at Ed’s.

Las Cruces, New Mexico: Coas Books—Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018
Coas Books, Solano

I can’t believe I haven’t listed Coas Books here yet. I found three of the Doubleday/Ballantine “Classics of Science Fiction” books here, as well as the elusive Volume IIB of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

They’ve also had some nice retro BASIC books, which have been useful now that I’ve been trying to do things with a TRS-80 Model 100.

Las Cruces is almost exactly halfway between Round Rock, Texas and San Diego, California. One of my examples of “Texas is big” is that when I drive to and from San Diego, it’s a two-day trip. One day of the trip goes completely across New Mexico, Arizona, and California all the way to the coast. The other day goes through half of Texas.

Because I make it a two-day trip, Las Cruces is the natural place to stop, and for that reason I looked for used bookstores in the area. The best, by far, is Coas, both locations. Unfortunately, because it’s at the end of a nine-hour day, whichever direction I’m coming from, I don’t go as often as I’d like. In fact, the April 24 spree you see in the list below was because I decided to spend a day in Las Cruces, and that day was spent mostly browsing books, reading books, and eating Mexican food. Because I had a day to spare I was able to hit both locations. And it made a nice break between two full days of driving.

They have a huge and wonderful selection of fantasy and science fiction, including a lot of older titles. The Solano location is smaller, so if you only have time for one, it should be the main location on Main Street. But as you can see I found some nice things in the smaller location, too. Members of my writing group have been recommending Richard Ford for a long time, and they were right; I already knew that Michael Chabon was worth reading but wasn’t aware of his semi-memoirish Maps and Legends until I saw it there.

If you’ve got a long day ahead of you on Highway 10 and you need an excuse to stop in Las Cruces to walk around a while, Coas makes a great break.

Next to the Solano location is a Mexican restaurant called El Patron. I recommend that, too.

Palestine, Texas: The Palestine Public Library—Wednesday, April 25th, 2018
Palestine Book Haul

Two of these books came from The Horse’s Mouth nearby in Buffalo; the rest came from the Palestine Public Library sale.

Last year on the way to a conference I took Highway 79 to Highway 20, to bypass all the Dallas traffic. On the way, I found a great little restaurant in Palestine, Texas. It’s hard to find good gnocchi, and they had it. So when Book Sale Finder showed a library booksale in Palestine right around when I started feeling like I needed a good road trip, I decided to go.

As you can tell from my purchases, I’m glad I did. I’ve been on the lookout for Manly Wade Wellman books, and The Old Gods Awaken has specifically been on my list. And I’ve been meaning to read Being There ever since I realized the movie was based on a book. I thoroughly enjoyed Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, so I took the chance on both of the Ford books I saw there.

I don’t expect any of the other books to be disappointments either.

It’s a one-room sale, crowded with books—I overheard one person say that it was like Black Friday for books, which was an accurate description. Most of them are general fiction; there is a table dedicated to science fiction and fantasy, but I found the Manly Wade Wellman book and the Pournelle-Niven book in the general fiction section. I’m pretty sure I found Tom Wolfe’s book in the general fiction section, too, even though it isn’t technically fiction.1

Buffalo, Texas: The Horse’s Mouth on Highway 79—Wednesday, March 21st, 2018
The Horse’s Mouth

A lot of fiction, a little science fiction, and some nice cookbooks.

If you’re traveling through Texas on Highway 79, and you find yourself in Buffalo, you could do a lot worse than stopping off at The Horse’s Mouth bookstore and coffeeshop. Besides coffee, they have a huge selection of ice cream flavors to turn into shakes, and, of even more importance when traveling, they have a nice selection of used books to walk around and browse. After several hours of driving, why stop at a coffeeshop that expects you to sit down?

While the book side has a relatively small selection of used books for a bookstore, it has a big selection for a coffeeshop/bookstore. I was on my way to Palestine—and another booksale—when I stopped here, and I even managed to find a book I’d been looking for, Brad Thor’s The Lions of Lucerne as well as a hardcover of Ken Follett’s On the Wings of Eagles. I read the latter in paperback form a long time ago and have been wanting to re-read it.

Lions of Lucerne is the first book in the Scot Harvath series; I read the tenth book, Full Black, a few years ago, and liked it enough I picked up another at random; it turned out to be the ninth in the series. I have a tendency to do this: randomly pick out a book that’s in the middle of a series, than read backwards. I decided this time to stop reading any more in the series until I could find the first. Now I have it, so I’ll be digging into a long thriller series.

They had a small selection of nice science fiction and fantasy, and also a shelf of very nice cookbooks. Again, not many, but what they had were good books. They had at least three of the Southern Living series from the seventies, which is one of my favorite series of cookbooks. I think they’re other people’s favorites as well, since they rarely show up in used bookstores. Alas, all of the ones here were ones I already own.

It looks like from their web page that they run a local writers conference, too, although I don’t see any information about it.

An I-35 book drive—Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
Fletcher’s Books and Antiques

Fletcher’s doesn’t have the best selection of the bookstores I visited, but it is by far the coolest to browse in.

There’s nothing like a day spent browsing dusty tomes in hidden libraries. Getting a little antsy last week, I decided to drive up I-35 and visit some bookstores in Waco that I hadn’t been to in about two years. I also had a gift certificate for Cabela’s—about two years old—and there were some bookstores, as well as a barbecue place, in Salado, Belton, and Temple that I had bookmarked in Yelp but never visited.

I would have gone Monday, but one of the bookstores isn’t open Mondays, so I went on Thursday. The first bookstore I went to, Fletcher’s in Salado, is also an antique store. While the books are a bit tattier the setting is the coolest of them all. The books are shelved amongst the antiques, so you’re looking around old grandfather clocks, busts, and lights. I picked up a Thomas Sowell book there.

Next up, in Belton, I stopped at the McWha Book Store, where I found a book that’s been on my list possibly longer than any other book currently on it.

In Temple, The Book Cellar is actually down stairs and into a basement, and it sells both books and comic books. Another out-of-print book on my list showed up there, this time a C.L. Moore paperback.

I was pretty sure I’d find something nice at Golden’s Book Exchange and at Brazos Books in Waco, as I’d already been to them, and they both have a nice selection. Thanks to Brazos, it looks like I’m going to be reading Tim Powers’s fault lines series in reverse order, something that seems to be becoming a habit of mine. And it turned out Golden’s had a half-off sale starting on Thursday, unbeknownst to me, which meant that their half cover price was really a quarter of cover price. Yet another book on my list showed up there, making this an especially lucky trip, as well as a Sarah Hoyt sequel I didn’t even known existed.

Georgetown, Texas: Second-Hand Prose—Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
Second Hand Prose

The Georgetown Public Library’s books-for-sale area is very well organized and, for a public library bookstore, comprehensive.

In the Georgetown Public Library is a Friends of the Library book sale that could almost double as an actual bookstore. The first time I went, I picked up several hard-to-find items from my list, including Michael Moorcock’s The Stealer of Souls. It’s also where I discovered Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy.

The second time I went, I picked up two of the Best American Short Story collections. I’ve been reading a bunch of these this year, after picking up the Salman Rushdie one at a big warehouse sale in 2015.

This may be the best library book nook I’ve been to. If you’re on a book tour of central Texas, the second best is about ten minutes further south at the Round Rock Public Library. Besides both having great used book sale areas, both are very nice libraries.

Second-Hand Prose is on the second floor of the library; if you feel like relaxing with your purchases, there is a nice coffeeshop on the first floor, with indoor and outdoor tables.

Second-Hand Prose
402 W 8th St.
Georgetown, Texas

Feb. 28, 2018

Tehanu Ursula K. Le Guin $1.25 mass market paperback
The Joy of Hate Greg Gutfeld $3.75 hardcover

Oct. 24, 2016

The Best American Short Stories 2005 Katrina Kenison, Michael Chabon $1.00 trade paperback
The Best American Short Stories 2009 Alice Sebold, Heidi Pitlor $1.00 trade paperback

May 7, 2015

Fifth Avenue Books closing—Friday, February 17th, 2017
Fifth Avenue Books

Sadly, only a few months after I wrote this review, it looks like Fifth Avenue Books is about to close its doors. Apparently, it “has been losing money for several years, most recently about $1,000 a week” and will close at the end of this month.

That’s too bad, and I worry it will affect Bluestocking Books as well: the existence of two good bookstores across the street from each other is one of the reasons I always hit this area when I visit San Diego. Apparently, according to the article, they’ve already used crowdfunding once to stay open.

I disagree with this from the article:

Used bookstores are in some ways the unwanted stepchild of the publishing industry. The only one who makes any money when a used book is sold is the seller—not the author, not the publishing house, not the printer.

The existence of a used-book market is an incentive to buy new books. Just as the existence of a used-car market is an incentive to buy new cars: because the purchaser knows they can recoup a small amount of their money later if they wish. The existence of a used-item market is very important for items that get cycled through regularly, as many do with cars, and most do with books: even those of us who have lots of books eventually run out of room and need to consolidate our library. Just knowing that I don’t have to dispose of my unused books by trashing them is a benefit.

And of course many times we’ll read a book and realize we’re never going to read it a second time. This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid ebooks: there is no easy used ebook market.

According to the store’s Facebook page, they currently have books at 80% off and there’s an “employee anti-starvation fund” you can donate to.

Pryor Oklahoma: The Book Exchange on Highway 69—Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

When I’m traveling, I often check multiple map applications to find the best route (which undoubtedly confuses Navigon, the navigation app I actually use en route). For traveling northeast from Round Rock to St. Louis or Michigan, this meant discovering the quicker Highway 69 instead of the bigger Highway 44 that my navigation app wants me to use to get across Oklahoma from Texas. Highway 69 is not only faster, but it’s also more interesting.

Book-wise, hidden a quick one block off of 69 in Pryor is The Book Exchange. Pryor is about ten miles north of Chouteau, where I often stop for food at either the Dutch Pantry or the Amish Cheese Shop. The former is a nice meat-and-potatoes place and the latter a nice sandwich shop and they’re both about halfway to St. Louis.

But while there are a lot of food options available on Highway 69—including in Pryor, and I’ll have to try some of them now that I’m stopping there all the time for books—there are very few bookstores, at least as far as I can tell. There’s a Hastings in Muskogee, but it didn’t have much in the way of books when I went there a few years ago.1 The Book Exchange is a real oasis on this route. Its only real drawback is that it’s a haggling-style store: most books don’t have prices, so you’ll need to ask for an offer and then decide if it’s worthwhile to buy at that price, make a counter-offer, or just put the book back. But so far the prices (as you can see) have been quite reasonable.

They have a nice selection of fiction, including thrillers/mysteries and science fiction/fantasy, and much more. As you can see from the list of books I’ve picked up here over my last two trips, I’ve found some nice older science fiction paperbacks. I’d been meaning to read Clifford D. Simak’s City for quite a while and bit because of the neat old dog-man-robot cover painting. And earlier, I picked up my first Clark Ashton Smith book here, which was disappointing only in the sense that I hadn’t read it decades earlier!

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