Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

The bookstores less traveled

Jerry Stratton, December 8, 2015

When traveling, everyone knows to go to the Strands and the Powells, but there are bookstores hidden away throughout smaller towns, or smaller neighborhoods, that are well worth visiting. I buy far more books from these provincial vendors than from their more famous cousins.

Many of these you aren’t going to get to unless you rent a car or are driving to your destination. But if you happen to be passing by, they’re definitely worth a stop.

When I write about them, I’m going to include my most-recent purchases (yes, I’m OCD enough to keep a database of book buys), some of which may post-date the review, since all of these are bookstores I will visit again if I am in the area.

And remember that these are mostly, almost by definition, mom and pop stores with all the difficulties that means. Two weeks ago I went to a bookstore in Michigan and discovered that it, and the town it was a part of, had closed down for the winter. And yesterday I went to a bookstore in Indiana that had closed unexpectedly for a week due to a death in the family. The unexpected is just part of life when you frequent stores run by the kind of people who love books. You can mitigate it by calling ahead, but there is still no telling what will happen between leaving Michigan at 8 and stopping off in Indiana at 10:30 en route to St. Louis.

March 2, 2022: Temple Public Library Book Sale
Temple Library Sale September 2021: My book haul from the Friends of the Temple Public Library book sale for September 2021.; libraries; Temple, TX; Temple; book sales

My latest haul is also relatively small; it’s quality, not quantity, alright, man?

Today is the first day of the Temple Public Library Book Sale in Temple, Texas. As I write this, however, I have just returned from their September 1, 2021, sale. It’s held twice a year, and it’s a very nice drive from Round Rock to Temple, perhaps stopping off at Country Donuts on the way up and Johnny’s Steaks and BBQ on the way down1 or one of the many nice restaurants in Temple.

On my first visit, I picked up several books I already owned, or used to. I read Tarzan long ago, and have several of the sequels in my to-read shelf. But I’ve somehow managed to lose my copy the first book. I’m pretty sure I didn’t just throw it out, as I distinctly remember reading it several times. Now I get to read it yet again. I also bought replacement copies of three cookbooks I already owned: hardcover editions of the amazingly eccentric Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes, Beatrice Trum Hunter’s wonderful Whole Grain Baking Sampler, and a boxed set of the Middle Eastern Cooking volume of Time-Life’s Foods of the World series. I don’t use Bull Cook very often, but I thoroughly enjoy browsing through it. Herter’s eccentric rants prove more true, sadly, as the future unfolds.

November 10, 2021: The Thrifty Peanut in Shreveport

Shreveport, Louisiana, is a great place to stop for a rest and walkabout while driving east or west on I-20. And if you’re a fan of used bookstores, you should definitely make time to browse The Thrifty Peanut while you’re there.

The first time I browsed The Thrifty Peanut, I had Robert Aickman on my want list. I found two of his short story collections, Cold Hand in Mine and Painted Devils on the Peanut’s shelves. Aickman is a very subtle horror writer, and these were elegant hardcover editions with covers by Edward Gorey. The stories are about hauntings that aren’t quite there, slightly twisted realities seen obliquely. Things just on the edge of remembrance, jus tout of reach of the senses.

I have often noticed in life that we never really learn anything—learn for the first time, I mean. We know everything already, everything that we, as individuals, are capable of knowing, or fit to know; all that other people do for us, at best, is to remind us, to give our brains a little twist from one set of preoccupations to a slightly different set.

February 26, 2020: Friends of the New Braunfels Public Library Annual Book Sale

Like most library sales, it could be better organized. But also like most of these sales, it’s a bit of a free-for-all with people crowding around open tables. Even an organized table will become unorganized after an hour or so of book fiends pawing through it.

There wasn’t a whole lot of older science fiction/fantasy here, but there was a decent range of other books, as you can see from the list of what I picked up—far more than I planned to buy.

There are two sections: the main floor, where books are priced according to format—$2.00 for hardcovers, $1.25 for softcovers, etc.—and the stage, where somewhat more collectable books are priced individually. The most expensive and the least expensive books I acquired here came from the stage. In the cookbook section on the stage, there was a basket of free pamphlets, and I found The Gourmet Foods Cookbook there. It’s a 1955 cookbook with amazing retro artwork. Potentially some good recipes, too—Luscious Pistachio Cake, for example—but I mainly picked it up for the cover and interior art.

Next to it I found Ruth Berolzheimer’s The United States Regional Cook Book. My aunt from St. Louis has gotten me interested in Gooey Butter Cake recently, so I browsed through it looking for an early version of that. However, since its first copyright is 1939, that’s probably a bit early for it to have filtered through to national cookbooks and in fact I find nothing under either Gooey Butter Cake or Chess Cake (as Wikipedia somewhat apocryphally claims it is also sometimes called). So I put it down. But with a Michigan Dutch cookery section and a Southwest cookery section, I couldn’t resist picking it up again. Anybody for some San Diego Date Crumbles?

My haul was also a bit Mark Steyn-themed. Besides the book by him, I also found a very large collection of Jack London stories. I’ve recently become interested in reading some London after Steyn used some of London’s short stories for his Tales for Our Time audio book series. Coupled with a recent trip to Alaska, Jack London had moved to the top of my want list, and now I probably have more Jack London than I really needed. It’s a thick book.

I hadn’t really planned on picking up the recent volumes of Food & Wine’s annuals, but their recent decision to stop publishing them post-2017 caused my collector mentality to kick in. And they are, so far, great collections.

January 15, 2020: New Orleans: Beckham’s Bookshop
Beckham’s Bookshop storefront: Storefront for Beckham’s Bookshop at 228 Decatur in the French Quarter of New Orleans.; New Orleans; bookstores

I finally made it back to New Orleans! I had some great food, saw some great sights, and managed to buy far more books than I’d planned on.

I was last in New Orleans a year before Hurricane Katrina; and the one store I worried about was Beckham’s. I remember it being a ramshackle bookstore in the French Quarter, with well-spaced piles of book lining the floors as well as the shelves—something easily wiped out by water damage, even if the actual flooding of the French Quarter was mostly news hysteria.

Beckham’s may smell a little mustier now—or it may not, I get used to the smell of mustiness in bookstores and don’t pay attention to it—but it’s still a ramshackle bookstore in the French Quarter, with well-spaced piles of books lining the floors as well as the shelves. It’s a great place to browse both in-order books and out-of-order books. There’s also a decent record store on the top floor.

That last time I was in New Orleans, I bought more at Beckham’s than just the role-playing book listed here. But this was before I’d started my database of books; I remember buying the role-playing book there vividly because I found it haphazardly located in one of those piles lining the floors. It was a memorable find. I don’t play Call of Cthulhu, but the Dreamlands are a great resource for any game. And it’s a beautiful hardcover; the cover art inside and out is phenomenal.

Whatever other books I bought there, I found in the shelves, and unlike the floors the shelves are easy to navigate. So they were less memorable finds.

This time around, I picked up a great Victor Davis Hanson book, Who Killed Homer? as well as an old-school slow-cooker cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens. I recently picked up the Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookies Cook Book and it has been phenomenal. The series doesn’t look like it’s going to rival the Southern Living collection I reviewed last year, but it has potential. I won’t be collecting the series because the series includes Better Homes and Gardens topics I’m uninterested in, unrelated to food; but I will be looking at any books I see in the library from the era.

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

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.

May 23, 2018: Las Cruces, New Mexico: Coas Books
Coas Books, Solano: The Solano storefront of Coas Books in Las Cruces, New Mexico.; New Mexico; bookstores

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.

April 25, 2018: Palestine, Texas: The Palestine Public Library
Palestine Book Haul: Books purchased at the Palestine Public Library Booksale and The Horse’s Mouth in Buffalo, Texas.; Texas; bookstores; Highway 79; book sales

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

March 21, 2018: Buffalo, Texas: The Horse’s Mouth on Highway 79
The Horse’s Mouth: Books in The Horse’s Mouth coffeeshop/bookstore on Highway 79 in Buffalo, Texas.; books; Texas; bookstores; Highway 79

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.

April 11, 2017: An I-35 book drive
Fletcher’s Books and Antiques: Fletcher’s mixes the books and antiques in the same rooms.; bookstores; Salado, TX; Salado

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 know existed.

March 14, 2017: Georgetown, Texas: Second-Hand Prose
Second Hand Prose: The bookstore inside the Georgetown Public Library.; libraries; bookstores; Georgetown

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.

February 17, 2017: Fifth Avenue Books closing
Fifth Avenue Books: Fifth Avenue Books (5th Avenue Books) storefront in Hillcrest, San Diego, California.; San Diego; Hillcrest; bookstores

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.

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

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!

December 30, 2016: Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo is closing
Final haul from Bay Leaf Books: My final purchase from Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo, Michigan, before it closed.; books; science fiction; fantasy

Latest haul from Bay Leaf Books.

I stopped into Bay Leaf Books over the holidays when I was traveling in Michigan, and discovered that they’ll be closing in “late January or February” 2017, due to health issues. If you’ve been meaning to visit, now is the time.

As you can see from the list of books I bought in December on the original review they still have a great selection—and I didn’t take their only copy of some of those books.

They’ve been a very nice place to visit when I wander up that way; it’ll be sad to see them go, as there aren’t many, if any, good bookstores in the area. Even the Newaygo Public Library’s book sale has closed, although perhaps only temporarily. Like most of the “bookstores less traveled” it was basically run by one person, and that person died. (If you live in the area and you want to see it re-open, consider volunteering.)

At the time I went, Bay Leaf was discounting their books 40%, or 20% for special display items. I don’t know if that’s going to change, as their web site says they’ll continue to sell online and at special events.

And don’t pass up the opportunity to visit any of the bookstores I highlight on The bookstores less traveled. As sad as it is to see a bookstore go, most, if not all, of them are run by one or two people. They will close down sooner or later. Give them your business now to increase the chances that it will be later.

November 29, 2016: Champaign, Illinois: Orphans Treasure Box
Orphans Treasure Box: The Orphans Treasure Box used book outlet in Champaign, Illinois.; bookstores; Champaign, Illinois

The storefront is easy to miss, and there’s not a lot else around.

So far I’ve only purchased one book from this bookstore—which means I’ve spent a total of twenty-five cents there. I’m not sure how often I’ll get back to it, either. I don’t often go through Champaign, Illinois. It will depend, I suppose, on whether I need to continue avoiding the traffic on the Illinois section of I-80.

Mind you, that one book was one of the better ones in the Three Investigators series. So chances are I’ll figure a way to pass by here again.

The bookstore is the outlet store of the charity’s Amazon storefront. According to their web site and the flyers in the store, the charity is focused on orphans, and especially on finding them homes and making sure that the people who take them in are supported.

When I pulled up, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. I came up a county road into a dusty lot that seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Pioneer Street is one lone block and appears to be some sort of warehouse district. It isn’t: Google Maps shows lots of businesses around that street but nothing particularly on it.

The bookstore itself is clean, organized, and filled with books. Which is what you want in a bookstore. If you’re traveling east/west on 74, or even north/south on 57 as I was, it’s worth checking out.

Orphans Treasure Box
826 Pioneer Street
Champaign, Illinois

Aug. 23, 2016

The Mystery of the Screaming Clock Robert Arthur $0.25 mass market paperback
August 16, 2016: San Diego: 5th Avenue Books and Bluestocking Books

If you’re in San Diego and you love books, you shouldn’t miss the 3800 block of Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest. Since the closing of all but one bookstore on Adams Avenue, this has become book central for San Diego. While it still existed, the San Diego Book Festival moved from Adams Avenue to this block.

Alas, the book festival is no more, as far as I can tell. But these two great bookstores still face each other across the street. If this is your first time there, you’ll likely spend a good part of your day, if not your entire day, in this area.

Bluestocking Books is the smaller of the two. In the front, next to the long checkout counter, is a fine collection of cookbooks. On the right, children’s and humor books set up centrally to draw the attention of kids. Elsewhere, they have a well-curated collection of history, sociology, and counter-culture. And in the back a very nice collection of science fiction/fantasy and classics of literature.

They’re very friendly; if you need something and you’ll be in the area for a while, they will happily order it.

Across the street, Fifth Avenue Books1 is large, spacious, and well-organized, and they also have a very good selection of science fiction, fiction, and history, as well as cookbooks and art and quite a bit more. They run a bit more expensive than I normally like, but that’s mainly because they know what they have. I found two Jack Vance books I wanted to read on my latest visit. Eyes of the Overlord for six bucks and The Dying Earth for five. I ended up getting the latter, because it had a cooler cover and was a buck cheaper.

I’ve also picked up a whole bunch of Lovecraft here in their backroom, and several nonfiction books in the front shelves.

July 26, 2016: St. Louis: Patten Books
Patten Books: Storefront for Patten Books on 10202 Manchester Road in St. Louis.; bookstores; St. Louis

Patten Books is an unassuming storefront on Manchester; you might pass it while going to the mall or heading home from the office. Don’t.

The first time I went here, I walked out with a huge stack of old-school books from my rambling want-list. The second time I went here, I was on the way back from the Greater St. Louis Book Fair. The fair was pretty cool, but I had not found anything on my list. Feeling guilty adding so many books to my shelf without being able to check anything off, I stopped by Patten’s afterward and picked up Jack Vance’s The Eyes of the Overworld.

I knew I could count on them to have something on my list.

Looking at the list of books I’ve purchased here, they are all fantasy and science fiction, and Patten does have a great selection of SF&F. But they aren’t lacking in general fiction either, nor in non-fiction. If you only go to one bookstore in St. Louis, I’d have to recommend Patten Books. They have a great selection and great prices, and are just a nice, quiet, relaxing place to browse books.

Patten Books
10202 Manchester Road
St. Louis, Missouri

Jan. 7, 2017

Life, the Universe and Everything Douglas Adams $3.50 mass market paperback

April 29, 2016

The Eyes of the Overworld Jack Vance $3.50 mass market paperback

March 24, 2015

May 10, 2016: Denver: Capitol Hill Books and Kilgore Books
Capitol Hill Books: Denver, Colorado’s Capitol Hill Books used bookstore.; Denver; bookstores

I discovered Lin Carter’s Callisto series in the discount racks on the sidewalk at Capitol Hill Books.

I know Denver as the Mile High City mainly because of Mile High Comics, which supplied my comic book fix in the eighties when I moved back from a college town with real comic book stores to a small town with just a drug store and a grocery store. Their subscription club kept me in comics and magazines while I figured out what to do with my life, and, later, recovered from an automobile accident.

Of course, most people who think “books” and “Denver” think Tattered Cover. That’s where everyone goes when they’re in Denver. Writers and agents and bloggers rave about it. I’m not going to review it because it is definitively not a “bookstore less traveled”. It’s a fine store, especially if you’re looking for new books. But if you’re a book hound, you should know that there are more bookstores in Denver than TC.

Two that I enjoyed on a leisurely walk through downtown were Capitol Hill Books and Kilgore Books & Comics. These two bookstores are only about fourteen blocks away from each other—about a ten minute walk. And they’re only a thirty-minute walk from Tattered Cover. Both of them had great science fiction books when I was there. Out of those two bookstores, I found six of the books on my list including four of the Ballantine Best Of Science Fiction series.

I picked up The Anubis Gates, a great Tim Powers book, in Kilgore. And I picked up Advise & Consent, a weird senatorial procedural by Allen Drury that started me on an Allen Drury kick, at, appropriately enough, Capitol Hill.

April 26, 2016: Round Rock, Texas: The Round Rock Public Library
Round Rock Public Library sculpture: La Fiesta, by Dan Pogue, on display outside the Round Rock Public Library; sculpture; Round Rock

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.

April 12, 2016: San Diego, California: Footnote Books

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, California

Feb. 11, 2023

Llana of Gathol & John Carter of Mars Edgar Rice Burroughs $10.00 hardcover

March 23, 2018

Land of the Rising Sun Lee Gold $15.00

Oct. 23, 2015

Saga of Old City Gary Gygax $3.00 mass market paperback

March 25, 2012

April 5, 2016: Chicago: Bookman’s Corner
Bookman’s Corner: Bookman’s Corner bookstore in Lakeview, in Chicago, Illinois.; Chicago; bookstores

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, Illinois

Nov. 7, 2021

The Closing of the American Mind Allan Bloom $3.50 hardcover

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

June 5, 2014

Turkish Cookery $3.00 unknown print
Deadlines & Monkeyshines John J. McPhaul $4.00 hardcover
For the Love of Mike Mike Royko $5.00 hardcover
March 17, 2016: Tucson, Arizona: The Book Stop
The Book Stop: The Book Stop in Tucson, Arizona.; bookstores; Tucson

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 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 lime-flavored lemonade.

March 8, 2016: Seattle, Washington: Ophelia’s Books

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.

February 23, 2016: Chatham, New York: Librarium
Librarium, East Chatham: The Librarium used bookstore in East Chatham, New York.; New York; bookstores

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, New York

May 26, 2014

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

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, Michigan

Dec. 21, 2016

Close to Critical Hal Clement mass market paperback
Hidden World Stanton A. Coblentz $0.75 mass market paperback
The Nemesis from Terra Leigh Brackett $0.90 mass market paperback
Mutant Henry Kuttner $0.90 mass market paperback

Dec. 1, 2015

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

June 9, 2015

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 Bay Leaf Books) the library book store was 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.

January 26, 2016: Benson, Arizona: Mary Ann’s Mostly Books
Mary Ann’s Mostly Books: Mary Ann’s Mostly Books, in Benson, Arizona.; Arizona; bookstores

It looks like the kind of storefront that would have a pickle barrel and a couple of old men in rocking chairs out front.

When driving on I–10 in Arizona, I often stop in Benson in order to eat at Reb’s Cafe—the fried chicken, the biscuits & gravy, the meat loaf, most of the diner-style food on the menu is great, and it’s a nice, friendly place to relax going between San Diego and Las Cruces. Recently I thought to do a search of nearby bookstores, and found one right nearby: Mary Ann’s Mostly Books.

Mary Ann’s is a mess—cluttered, disorganized, books everywhere—but there are some great old books hidden in the mess. As I recall, there are shelves full of a lot of southwestern history, especially ghost towns, and I found some interesting old science fiction books on that small shelf.

I also found some older political books. People talk about how Barry Goldwater was an early form of libertarian, and I’ve been wanting to pick up something of his. After reading Murrow and Advise & Consent, Why Not Victory? seemed like an obvious choice. It appears to be a book that argues that we don’t have to give in to Soviet tyranny in order to have peace; in the Murrow book I ran across several politicians and bureaucrats who believed, in 1963, that the Soviet planned economy must by its nature outpace a free American one. It will be interesting to read an opposing view.

So it is now officially On The Table. That table is beginning to groan like Atlas under the weight. I just checked with Goodreads; so far I have read 106 books this year. Checking my database of books, I have purchased 162 this year. That is, as the environmentalists say, not sustainable. I’m gonna need a bigger table.

If you regularly travel I–10, you know how barren it is of pretty much anything. Mary Anne’s is definitely worth stopping at; especially if you stop at Reb’s, which is also definitely worth stopping at.

Besides Reb’s, if you’re in Benson you might also want to check out Singing Wind Bookshop. They have a lot of books; they tend toward newer books rather than older, and they have a slightly progressive bent. They are at the end of a long dirt driveway masquerading as a road, donkeys on the left, and a wide vista ahead. It’s on the owner’s ranch, literally off in the middle of nowhere. If you are in Benson and you have the time, it’s worth checking out at least once.

December 22, 2015: St. Louis: Dunaway Books

I travel through St. Louis a lot now as I have good friends there and it is reasonably between Texas and Michigan, where I grew up. Since my friends in St. Louis are also book lovers, I have been discovering some great bookstores there. Dunaway Books is the most recent, and it’s worth visiting if you’re traveling through.

I visited them just before Thanksgiving; I didn’t buy much, but what I did buy was very satisfying. All three of the books I purchased on this inaugural visit have been on my want list for quite some time now. I’ve been looking for the second book in Allen Drury’s Advise & Consent series ever since I discovered it was a series. The first book was amazing. The other two books have been on my list based on recommendations, but I expect them to make good reading, too.

The upstairs area is where the more mainstream books are (though what that means today, I couldn’t say, so I probably shouldn’t use the term), and the science fiction and specialized topics such as the sciences are in the basement. The basement is a bit unorganized, but there are a lot of good books down there. I found Advise & Consent upstairs, and The Best of C.L. Moore and The Mainspring of Human Progress in the basement.

There are also some nice places to eat in the neighborhood, making it a good place to stop if you’re on a road trip.

December 8, 2015: Seattle, Washington: Twice Sold Tales
Twice Sold Tales: Science fiction section, or part of it.; Seattle; bookstores

If you enjoy browsing through science fiction—or just books in general—Twice Sold Tales is a real find. The proprietor is a huge science fiction fan—she spoke with me at length about the contributions of Hal Clement to the field—and her selection of science fiction always includes hard-to-find items on my list, when I visit Seattle.

Their selection of general fiction is also quality. I picked up Ward Just’s Echo House there, and Walter Tevis’s Mockingbird which, while technically science fiction is usually shelved with the rest of Tevis. And I also found some long-wanted gifts for my girlfriend that don’t show up on the list, since my OCD-ness does not include cataloguing other people’s books.

I also picked up the first Mad Scientists Club, which I didn’t know existed. I acquired the second in a seedy manner back in Catholic grade school, and have kept it ever since, even as other, more advanced books have wandered in and out of my life. It was pleasant learning that there were new stories to read.

We first ran across this bookstore at random. We were looking for places to live, and wandering neighborhoods, and saw a bookstore sign down the street. My girlfriend almost ended up living in Capitol Hill just because it contained this type of establishment.

Warning, though, they have cats, and lots of them!

Twice Sold Tales
1833 Harvard Avenue
Seattle, Washington

Sept. 28, 2015

The Probability Broach L. Neil Smith $1.20 mass market paperback
Barbarians and Black Magicians Lin Carter $1.60 mass market paperback
The Best of Fritz Leiber Fritz Leiber $2.40 mass market paperback

April 9, 2015

The Mad Scientists’ Club Bertrand R. Brinley $1.32 small trade paperback
Changeling Earth Fred Saberhagen $1.50 mass market paperback
Kothar—Barbarian Swordsman Gardner F. Fox $1.50 mass market paperback
Mockingbird Walter Tevis $2.25 mass market paperback
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