Mimsy: Books

Round Rock, Texas: The Round Rock Public Library—Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
Round Rock Public Library sculpture

The Three Amigos welcome you to the Round Rock Public Library!

Public libraries are also often, somewhat paradoxically, very good bookstores. You would think that a place that loans books for free would not be a great place to locate a bookstore, but people who love to read books also love having books, and often end up having to trade out books they once loved to make room for new books on their bookshelves. These folks make up the Friends of the Library.

The Round Rock Public Library’s Friends of the Library Book Nook is not very big, but at least by my judgment it makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity. Since moving to Texas I’ve picked up eleven books there, from Andrew Breitbart and P.J. O’Rourke to Andre Norton and a Robert Heinlein.

And Martin Greenberg’s Dinosaur Fantastic collection isn’t the best science fiction I’ve read lately, but it is filled with dinosaurs! Can’t hardly go wrong with that.

They also have an entire bookshelf dedicated to a handful of high-selling authors such as Richard Patterson and Janet Evanovich.

The Book Nook appears to have a pretty good turnover rate, as, despite it’s size, I’m always finding something new.

There are two sections to the Book Nook. As you walk in the main entrance, the children’s and young adult section is directly around the corner on your left as you enter the library. The larger Book Nook is in a room up the stairs, also around the corner to your left as you leave the stairs.

The Round Rock library is currently right downtown, though they are considering moving it to the outskirts of town.

San Diego, California: Footnote Books—Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

This place is well on its way to becoming a Bookman’s Corner. He has more books every time I go in, but not more space. There are piles of books in front of piles in front of shelves. This is a very small bookstore, but there’s a very good selection inside.

The short list of books here is not because I haven’t bought that much from Footnote; it’s because I started buying books there well before I started keeping a database. I’ve picked up several game books there, and quite a bit of science fiction. And a lot of books from their outside dollar boxes. I just don’t remember which books were purchased from which bookstore back then. I’m pretty sure that I picked up more political books there than just the ironically-named Palace Guard.

They have a lot of science fiction and fantasy, history, cookbooks, and more. It’s well worth the trip if you’re in the area. They’re a little off the beaten path—you need to walk several blocks down from the Fifth Avenue/Fourth Avenue center of Hillcrest. When you get there, however, you will be rewarded with not just Footnote, but also a comic book store and a thrift store.

This is also the only bookstore I’ve been to that is adamant about keeping any bags you might be carrying, so be forewarned that you’ll need to give it up.

Footnote Books
1627 University Avenue
San Diego, CA

Oct. 23, 2015

Saga of Old City Gary Gygax $3.00 mass market paperback

March 25, 2012

The Palace Guard Dan Rather, Gary Paul Gates $1.00 hardcover


The Joy of Creative Cuisine cookbook
Chicago: Bookman’s Corner—Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
Bookman’s Corner

This place is filled with towers of books. Looking for a book here is like playing Giant Jenga. If you’re not careful, the whole thing will fall down.

Even the window displays are massed piles of books.

But it is a great bookstore, especially if you’re looking for books about old Chicago. This is where I found Deadlines & Monkeyshines, and of course some books on Mike Royko, including one I’d been looking for, For the Love of Mike.

As you can see, they also have a nice selection of cheap Tarzan novels. Not a huge amount of mass-market fiction, but I was able to find some nice options there as well.

And a whole lot of history books and a bunch more. You have to wander through it to believe it.

If you are in Chicago, there are a handful of places you must visit. The Billy Goat Tavern; the Lincoln Park Zoo; the Printers Row Lit Fest; and, in my opinion, if you’re a book-lover you must visit Bookman’s Corner.

Bookman’s Corner
2959 North Clark
Chicago, IL

March 17, 2015

Tarzan and the Lion Man Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.25 mass market paperback
Tarzan the Invincible Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.25 mass market paperback
Tarzan the Magnificent Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.50 mass market paperback
Tarzan and the City of Gold Edgar Rice Burroughs $0.75 mass market paperback
The Gates of Creation Philip José Farmer $0.75 mass market paperback
Chains of the Sea Robert Silverberg $0.75 mass market paperback
That Hideous Strength C.S. Lewis $1.50 mass market paperback

June 5, 2014

Turkish Cookery $3.00 cookbook
Deadlines & Monkeyshines John J. McPhaul $4.00 hardcover
For the Love of Mike Mike Royko $5.00 hardcover
How black are jets?—Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
The cows aren’t coming home

Writers are like headless chickens. They hang onto clichés until the cows come home.

Writers use a ton of clichés. We like to think of them as… idioms. They’re, like, a train of words that inflate sentences and paragraphs, and we have a superficial sense that they deliver meaning without knowing what they mean.

Used well, a clichéd phrase can condense an entire culture down to a few words. Clichés pack so much history that their meanings often transcend their origins. How many people nowadays have seen pitch, or even coal, to know how black it is and how uncomfortably it coats everything it touches?

Only a few farmers today know what time the cows come home, or what chickens do when you cut their heads off. I’ve seen it, and the reality is far stranger than the cliché. You don’t know crazy until you’ve seen a headless chicken chase your brother around the yard, keeping on his tail until it finally kicks the bucket a minute later.

A chicken with its head cut off is, dare I say it, a very single-minded creature. You might even say its mind was racing a mile a minute, but a mile a minute is only sixty miles an hour. At one mile a minute, you’re falling behind on the highway of life! Most likely it’s because you really don’t know shit from Shinola, nor even why that’d be the mother of all snafus.

On the other hand, I wonder how many people bake enough nowadays to know how slow molasses is, or, with modern heating, have ever seen it slow to a crawl in January. It’s a special occasion today to put a cork into something to stop it up, and few people, even among those still addicted to the demon weed, keep a pipe handy to put things in and smoke them.

When I lived in California, I went to church occasionally, but if that was their Sunday best I’d hate to see what they wear at Walmart. Here in Texas, mind you, their Sunday best is a real E ticket.

Sleeping tight probably wasn’t even a metaphor when it was first coined, but while the language has moved on the phrase has not. Now it has all the earmarks of a metaphor—it’s a meta-metaphor, not to put too fine a point on it. However, bedbugs are making a comeback, so it remains a good idea not to let them bite—as if the bedbugs ever bother to keep you in the loop on the matter.

I fear I have crossed a Rubicon with this post. I’d like to keep it going the whole nine yards, but nobody remembers what the nine yards were, or why we’re sometimes goldbrickers who only go six yards. See you on the flip side, and don’t take any wooden nickels.

Tucson, Arizona: The Book Stop—Thursday, March 17th, 2016
The Book Stop

The Tucson Festival of Books was this weekend, and a greater hive of scum and villainy—readers and publishers—you will never see. Tucson also has at least one nice bookstore: The Book Stop on 4th Avenue.

I didn’t pick up too many books here last time, but that’s mainly because I’m trying to cut back on my addiction. The two books I did pick up have been on my list for a long time, and I haven’t seen them at any of the many bookstores I’ve visited. Basic Economics is a great introduction to just what the title says, including the subtitle, “A Citizen’s Guide”. Thomas Sowell very deftly covers the economics that people need to know to be informed voters.

Fouad Ajami’s Dream Palace of the Arabs is a fascinating look at the history of artistic intellectuals in Arab politics, and turns out to also be a nice introduction to the factions of the Arab world.

As you can see from my purchases, prices here are a bit higher than in other reviews, but that may be a reflection of the scarcity of the books in question in used bookstores. Also, Basic Economics is a textbook, and those tend to be higher priced as well. As I recall, their prices were better in their science fiction/fantasy section; they also had some great selections there, but ones I already had.

I spent at least an hour browsing through their books, and I am definitely going to be stopping here semi-regularly on my drives between California and Texas. It pairs mightily fine with Reb’s Café a 45 miles east in Benson. Pick up some books and then browse them while eating, when you’re going east, or rest your stomach after good comfort food when you’re going west.

The Book Stop is also a relatively short walk from the Festival (and thus the university). And if you need something to eat, walk a couple of blocks to Latin It Up, a Cuban sandwich place with a very nice cubano and a great line-flavored lemonade.

Seattle, Washington: Ophelia’s Books—Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

I walked down the hill from Queen Anne and across the Fremont Avenue bridge to get here; it’s a nice, if convoluted, walk. Much of the time it feels like walking down someone’s long driveway.

Ophelia’s Books isn’t as big as Twice Sold Tales, but what they have are interesting, and they are also right next to a decent record store.

Like Twice Sold Tales, they have cats. Possibly a requirement of Seattle bookstores, possibly a requirement of bookstores in general.

I only picked up two books when I was here, but one of them has been on my list for years, and one I never even knew existed. Still Life is the second in A. S. Byatt’s Frederica series; so far I have only read the third, Babel Tower. But what I have read of Byatt made me pick it up immediately from their discount rack.

Still Life is practically a primer on writing.

Sign of the Labrys is a strange book from AD&D’s infamous Appendix N. It is definitely a relic of the sixties, where it’s a great thing that most people are dead because it stopped overpopulation, war, and capitalism. Fortunately, the capitalists created a huge surplus of food, shelter, and supplies, so that there’s enough for everyone for a long time. A hard book to find, but well worth reading if you’re a D&D fan. Its combination of fading technology and magic looks a lot like old-school D&D.

If you’re doing a bookstore tour of Seattle, Ophelia’s needs to be on your route.

Ophelia’s Books
3504 Fremont Ave N
Seattle, WA

Sept. 26, 2015

Still Life A. S. Byatt $3.00 trade paperback
Sign of the Labrys Margaret St. Clair $4.00 mass market paperback
Chatham, New York: Librarium—Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
Librarium, East Chatham

In the greatest fantasy stories, there are mysterious paths, and signs that lead the astute traveler to hidden lands. One such place is Librarium, a bookstore surrounded by the foliage outside of East Chatham, New York.

We were in the area for a friend’s wedding. I was there with my girlfriend, who also reviewed it, in a more timely manner than I.

This bookstore is why I was willing to drive onto someone’s ranch in Arizona when I saw a bookstore advertised there on Yelp. Librarium is in a house on a large plot of land just outside Chatham. We didn’t go looking for it—we were leaving the area, about to turn onto NY–295 W, when we saw the sign that said it was nearby. We pulled up into the parking area, which is just a grassy driveway near a barn.

Then we had to knock on the door, because this is also someone’s home.

It is exactly what a used bookstore ought to be: rambling but well-organized, occasionally having to duck through tight openings, and filled with old books.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it occasionally blinks in and out of existence, so you might want to call ahead first.

126 Black Bridge Road II
East Chatham, NY

May 26, 2014

The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck $1.50 mass market paperback
The Common Ground Dessert Cookbook $2.00 cookbook
The Complete Round the World Meat Cookbook Myra Waldo $3.00 cookbook
The Complete Chess Course Fred Reinfeld $3.75 hardcover
Newaygo, Michigan: Bay Leaf Books—Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

With a population of under 2,000 the last time anyone checked, you could be excused for thinking there’s not a market for a great used bookstore. It is the definition of a sleepy little town. There are a lot of such towns in Newaygo County, and throughout this area of Michigan. I grew up in one, and it did not have a used bookstore or new bookstore. I got my comic books at the local grocery (which meant I missed a lot of issues in multi-issue stories) and for books I had to wait until we drove into Muskegon to shop at the supermarket there.

However, Newaygo is known for its antique stores that attract tourists, and perhaps that improves the odds of a bookstore making a successful go at it. If you are antiquing in Newaygo and you love books, you should stop into Bay Leaf Books.

The first time I visited them, I found two books on my want list that I’d been looking for for a long time: The Best of Leigh Brackett, and the Best of Frank Russell.

Both times I’ve visited I’ve found books that weren’t on my list but which would have been had I known about them.

They have a very nice science fiction section, as well as a whole lot of other books. They also have a local history section if that sort of thing interests you.

There’s no question, if you enjoy used bookstores, that you’ll want to stop at Bay Leaf when you’re near Newaygo.

Bay Leaf Books
79 State Road
Newaygo, MI

Dec. 1, 2015

Green Magic Jack Vance $1.75 mass market paperback
Intellectuals and Society Thomas Sowell $9.00 hardcover

June 9, 2015

Seven Footprints to Satan A. Merritt $1.00 mass market paperback
Conan the Rebel Poul Anderson $1.50 mass market paperback
The Fox Woman & Other Stories A. Merritt $1.50 mass market paperback

While you’re in town, if it happens to be a Tuesday, stop off at the Newaygo Library. At the time I’m writing this (and both times I’ve visited them) they were open on Tuesdays from 11 to 2. The Virginia Ciupidro Bookstore isn’t very big, just a small room, but it’s worth stopping at. Due to their limited hours I’ve only been there once, but that day involved picking up four hardcovers, including two by Advise & Consent author Allen Drury.

I generally wouldn’t recommend pulling off of the highway for one, but when you’re already in the area the local public library will often have a decent room of used books for fundraising purchases. And unlike bookstores, libraries usually have web sites.

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