As a rule, bookworms and bibliophiles are the epitome of old school. Unswayed by the ebook revolution, they pine for the days when finding a good secondhand book meant prowling the dusty, cramped aisles of the local used bookstore. As the years go by, fewer and fewer of those outposts have remained in business. Luckily, however, some of them—like the remarkable stores listed here—are thriving.
• Strand Book Store: The crown jewel of New York City’s secondhand book business, the Strand thoroughly deserves its reputation of harboring “18 miles of books.” The riches to be found on three levels in the main store, plus a separate Rare Book Room, are a wonder to behold. Founded in 1927 by Ben Bass, the store continues to prosper under the direction of his granddaughter Nancy. A must for any NYC-bound book lovers.
• Powell’s City of Books: While this behemoth of a store in Portland, Oregon stocks many new books among the million-plus volumes on its shelves, it rates a mention because used books are featured as well. Truly one of the wonders of the Pacific Northwest, if not the world, Powell’s color-coded rooms make it easy to navigate to the subject matter of visitors’ interest. Be prepared to leave with a large bag of treasures.
• John K. King Used & Rare Books: Located in a four-story former glove factory building in Detroit, John K. King has an estimated one million books in stock along with an impressive collection of rare and collectors editions. Routinely voted best used bookstore in Michigan, it is also one of the best in the nation—not only for its selection but also for its reasonable prices. John King himself works at the store daily.
• Booked Up: How many fans of the writer Larry McMurtry know that he has been a player in the used book business for many decades? Recently consolidated from four buildings to one, this bookstore in tiny Archer City, Texas (located about 25 miles from Wichita Falls) is still worth the trip for its impressive selection of close to 200,000 fine and scholarly books. Drop in on the right day and say hello to McMurtry in person.
• Zubal Books: In recent years, Cleveland’s Zubal Books—which harbors hundreds of thousands of books in a former molasses factory—has devoted itself primarily to internet sales. Today, approximately 5,000 books in art, history, military, health and a few other subjects are available to walk-in customers, but the books in that open stock have one thing in common: They are each $5.00, regardless of their in-print or internet prices.
No matter what subjects strike a book lover’s fancy, these stores (and several others like them across the nation) continue to delight with their old-school charms. Happy reading!
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