Monday, January 28, 2008

Sometimes the best bookstore ain't a bookstore at all...

Continuing our search for the best bookstore in the known universe, we turn to Jen Bradbury, author of the YA novel, Shift.

Jen, as it turns out, lives in a Northwestern bookstore-desert, but that doesn't stop her from browsing the stacks... right, Jen?

It's true! My favorite bookstores are half an hour away in Bellingham, but I don't make it up there as often as I like. So instead of writing about my favorite bookstore, I'd like to tell you about the one I buy from most often, and I'm sure you'll agree it has its own special benefits.

Value Village is part of a thrift store chain based in the northwest. The book selection may be small, but in most of the stores I've visited they position they bookshelves close to the furniture, which means they encourage you to sit down and read somebody's old book on somebody else's old sofa. And you can buy them both if you want! That's an experience you simply can't get anywhere else.

And The Village might be the only place you can find Siddhartha shelved alongside the latest celebrity biography. Such juxtaposition inspires all kinds of wonderful tangential thought. Sort of like the way books are pitched sometimes in query letters or in deal announcements—"Its Indiana Jones meets The Namesake." Only here the pairings are even more unholy. Try cross pollinating The High School Musical Sticker Fun book with one of the old Oprah's Book Club picks and see if you don't come away just a little inspired.

Because thrift store employees aren't necessarily shelving for anything except space conservation, part of the joy is coming across books I might not otherwise find. In a normal bookstore, I tend to beeline for the children's/YA sections, and then migrate into travel, if my husband is content looking at the woodworking books. But in Value Village, everything's chucked in together, waiting for me to make some new discovery.

And some of those discoveries are priceless. There's really nothing better than unearthing a lovely, full-color illustrated, leather bound anthology of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales published in 1923. Unless its taking that book home for the low, low price of $1.89. Or half that on discount Fridays.

Thrift stores are also pretty much the only safe places to shop books with a toddler. Following a two-year-old around Barnes and Noble, means you spend most of your time reshelving (incorrectly) the books she tugs gleefully off the racks. On the worst days you end up buying the pop-up version of Ulysses because your daughter absentmindedly ripped a page and you can't bring yourself to hide it behind the others on the display. Such trips end up being costly without really enhancing our home library. But in thrift stores, my daughter can accidentally rip a page and I'm only out a buck.

The only real problem is that writers and publishers don't see any of the profits from these secondhand sales. But most often the thrift stores exist to support worthy causes. Even better, it means the books are being read and passed on, collecting the stories from their readers to rival the ones contained in the pages themselves. And I don't think any writer could mind that.

Like the kids say, "Tru dat!"

Do the kids say that? Do they really?

Sigh... probably not. Really, we're not so cool as we like to think. Thankfully we have you, our readers, forcing us to "keep it real."

Keep it real???

Doh! There we go again!!!

(And so we shuffle off to read, or write, and drink some chamomile tea, like the dorks we are.)


TJ Brown said...

Yep, my teens say that all the time.

I lurve Value Village book sections!


Barrie said...

Great post! There is truly something to be said for browsing through unsorted books. :)

M.P. Barker said...

I second your love for thrift stores. I've found out-of-prints books I'd never thought I'd ever see at my local Goodwill or Savers. Plus, most of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores & consignment shops & church rummage sales. Takes away the guilt from buying new stuff--"but it's for a good cause..."

Sarah Prineas said...

There's really nothing better than unearthing a lovely, full-color illustrated, leather bound anthology of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales published in 1923. Unless its taking that book home for the low, low price of $1.89.

Did you really!? Lucky you!

Deb Cushman said...

Plus, saving money on books at the thrift store, leaves you with more cash to buy the new books by those authors when they are released:-) I've taken a chance on a used book I never would have paid $25 for brand new and then loved it so much I went to Barnes & Noble and bought other books by that same author.