It only took me seven months of living here to find the perfect used bookstore (note the sarcasm; I’ve gone seven months without a good used bookstore to visit!). Today, I stumbled across Red Letter Secondhand Books downtown. It has just the atmosphere I love in a used bookstore: tall shelves packed floor to ceiling, an overflow of books stacked on the floor next to the shelves, little cubbies and corners, hand-written labels for each section, and the distinct musty smell of used books. It is small and intimate and perfect for browsing. The counter was wooden and had books piled on it, and the lady calculated my tax on a simple old-fashioned calculator.
There is something about used books that is so appealing to me. The simple fact that the books have been held and read before, for one thing, but also the way in which there is a greater sense of variety. Book styles go through phases, so often all the books in a new bookstore look somewhat similar in certain ways. A used bookstore contains all sorts of different looking books, with a much greater mix of cover styles. It also contains books that may now be out of print, books that might very well be interesting to me – so I feel that there are more possibilities hidden in a used bookstore. I might stumble across something that I literally could not find in a new-book only bookstore, and that may not be likely to be in the library either.
I couldn’t resist buying one book. Not something out of print, but something that I’ve had on my list of books to read for a long time: A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. I decided it was worth buying because I suspect it is not something I will sit down and read in its entirety in one stretch. By owning it, I can read it in as many bits and pieces as I want without having to keep re-checking it out from the library.