16 used bookstores in 14 days

I know you all are thinking “oh, how fun”. But I had 26 on my list! What if all the best books were at the 10 I didn’t get to? Especially the two that we stopped at that were inexplicably closed.

Still, it was great fun. Unlike most vacations, I took a small number of books along with me to read (only 4) because I knew I had to leave as much room in the car as possible for books I would pick up along the way. And pick up I did. I purposely have been saving most of my book buying budget for this trip. You may remember I recently spent 10 days in the UK and I didn’t buy one single book. I don’t even think I went into any bookshops. (I take it back I did go into at least one while I was in Rye.) I was saving up all my pennies for our trip to Maine.

You might be thinking “But, Thomas, you doofus, most of what you love is hard to find British fiction. Why wouldn’t you look while you were in England?” Well, first and foremost I knew we were going to a bookstore rich area of Maine for two weeks and I wanted to have some book budget to spend while we were there. Second, carrying books back from England is a lot harder than it is on a road trip. Third, I like the needle in a haystack approach to book browsing. It is no fun when everything you want is right there in front you. I like to hunt for things.

Would I find any of my type of books in the wilds of Maine? Yes.

Since getting away from the DC-Baltimore-Philly-NYC-Boston megalopolis was the main point of our vacation, I purposely didn’t want to look for books until we got to Maine. Armed with my list of 26 shops along our projected route I began to realize that Maine used booksellers fall into three general categories:

  1. Those general sellers who know what they have and price accordingly.
  2. Those who have stock that doesn’t look like it has turned over at all in the past 40 years. And not in a good way either. Most of it was shite 40 years ago and is still shite today.
  3. Those who have antiquarian books that Helene Hanff would have gotten cheaply from Marks & Co.

Seller types 1 and 2 generally had a few gems just waiting for me to find them. 

We only took pictures of a few of the 16 that we went to. That was mainly due to weather or not we bothered to take the camera out of the car or not. These aren’t necessarily the best we came across. (Although they all do fall into category 1.)

Sarah’s Books at the Antique Marketplace in Bangor truly was the best one of the 16 we went to. You may remember last year when we were on Islesboro and I met an artist and bookseller who knew me from my blog and who gave me two lovely books when we met. I can honestly say that her bookstall at the antique market was not only the tidiest, best stocked stall I have ever come across in such a market, but it was also probably the best organized store with the best stock that we came across in Maine.

Not only was her stock interesting and varied, but the books, even the cheap ones, were in really good shape. We ended up buying 14 books from her stall, more by far than any other store we went to. And it is no surprise that she stumbled across my blog once upon a time. Her stock was a real My Porch delight, most of you would have loved it as well. There were a few displays on her shelves that seemed to be set up just to entice me. I really wish we had had our camera that day (these are taken from her blog) so I could have taken pictures of some of collections she had highlighted. I am afraid I ruined the aesthetic appeal of one of the Evelyn Waugh display by buying four of his travel memoirs in mataching Penguin editions.

Camden, Maine had two used bookstores. This one, on the second floor had lots of great reading copies.

I chose a few titles here that left the bookseller unable to discern my areas of interest.
We had a nice chat about Ambrose Bierce.

Northeast Harbor, Maine is a more af a wide spot on the road on Mount Desert Island. But what a cute wide spot it is.

After re-reading 84, Charing Cross Road, I was in the mood for this truly antiquarian shop. It didn’t have much of what I like to buy, but it was still a joy to browse. I ended up buying some expensive ephemera that I will blog about in the future.

This was my haul. Including some of John’s that aren’t in this picture, we bought about 75 books. Time to weed out the library to make room for these.

This is what I call the Persephone Collection. Four by Dorothy Canfield Fisher that aren’t published by Persephone; a non Persephone Whipple which I already own (Because of the Lockwoods) but I couldn’t pass it up; a DE Stevenson, two Glaspells, one a Persephone and one not, and a Denis Mackail.

Denis Mackail wrote the wonderful Greenery Street published by Persephone. I was armed with a list of Persephone authors to see if I could find their other titles. I considered finding this one a big coup. Can’t wait to read it.

I will blog about this more sometime in the future, but I think I am going to try and collect all 600 or so of Oxford’s The World’s Classics in these cute little pocket editions. I already had a few Trollopes in this edition and couldn’t resist these others when I came across them. The Trollope autobiography is one that I have wanted to read for some time.

I had never heard of Eugene Field, but the look of this one and the first few paragraphs really drew me in. Oddly, very oddly, the very same day I bought this Simon T. posted a comment on my Helene Hanff post about Field’s book about bibliophiles. Can’t wait to find that one.

Books on books. Can never get enough of these. What’s missing is the copy of 84, Charing Cross Road that I bought and re-read on the trip.

This will help flesh out my Anglophilia collection.

The Goose River Exchange in Camden, Maine. Somehow this one got out of order. I bought some of the England books here. Overall the stock doesn’t have much fiction, but is so interesting I would love to work here. The combo of books, magazines, ephemera, and antiques would make this a wonderful place to pass the time.

18 thoughts on “16 used bookstores in 14 days

  1. C.B. James August 19, 2012 / 1:14 pm

    I would so love to plan a vacation around bookstores. If you count the trip we took to Portland just to visit Powell's, then I guess I have.

    Otherwise, I travel to place and then find what stores I can.

    We have been to Maine, loved it and hope to go back again some day.

    What do you know about bookstores in Nova Scotia?


  2. Karen K. August 19, 2012 / 1:55 pm

    Wow, what a great haul. I can only imagine how hard it would have been to carry those across the pond in your luggage!

    I look forward to reading about all those non-Persephones. I'm woefully behind on my Persephone reading list. And I am terribly jealous of all your built-in bookshelves! I'm thinking about having some installed but we move so much I don't know if it's worth it.


  3. Susan in TX August 19, 2012 / 4:29 pm

    Wow. Amazing haul, and I look forward to your comments on them as you get to them. So glad your plan of waiting for your vacation to shop paid off!


  4. Juxtabook August 19, 2012 / 4:37 pm

    When I read descriptions of bookshops I am always glad mine isn't open to the public! I liked your categories though.

    have you come across Drif's guide? Not very politicly correct but amusing.


    and for his categories and terminology – my favourite is:

    Samuel Beckett Special – A secondhand bookshop where it is not always possible to tell what is going on, the windows often have just two or three drearily strange books in them, it is not always obvious how to open the door and when you go in there is a strange sense of wonderment, especially about when the last person did, and what happened to him or her.



  5. bookssnob August 19, 2012 / 4:52 pm

    I need to go to Maine. But I'd need to coordinate my trip to be BEFORE yours as clearly there would be nothing left for me to buy otherwise! What an amazing haul – am particularly jealous of the non Persephone Persephones – what fantastic finds!


  6. StuckInABook August 19, 2012 / 6:13 pm

    How wonderful! What a lot of gems.

    I loved Greenery Street, but haven't read any other Mackail – I'm excited to know what you think of this.

    And hurrah for the Field too – a lovely coincidence. I spot the one about two older ladies who love books, can't remember the title, that I've had on my Amazon wishlist for years. Now you can test it for me ;)


  7. joan.kyler August 20, 2012 / 8:26 am

    I have a copy of Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac by Eugene Field in that same edition. It's a charming little book that I hope you find someday.

    I'd also like to recommend the Moosepath League books by Van Reid, a contemporary Maine author who used to work at Maine Coast Books in Damariscotta I think you'd like them.

    And you've just made me homesick for New England again. I can't wait to see more photos of your trip. I think I have two more years in Philadelphia, then I can go home!!


  8. Geranium Cat August 20, 2012 / 9:02 am

    What a wonderful haul! I'm especially envious about the Mackail having written on my blog only last night that he's worth looking out for. But lots of the others look lovely too (including Jane and Prudence, which is one of my favourites). Those Oxford World Classics are just to die for, aren't they :-)


  9. Sarah Faragher August 20, 2012 / 9:28 am

    What I enjoy most about this post: how you describe midcoast Maine as “bookstore rich” (such a useful and descriptive phrase!); the fact that you have a book buying budget; your penchant for browsing in real bookstores; that great photo of you completely surrounded by books at Stone Soup (Paul and Agnes, the owners, are great people and I too have found very good books there); of course your varied and idiosyncratic book purchases; and last but certainly not least your review of my book booth. I forgive you for pillaging the Evelyn Waugh display.


    p.s. As someone already noted, “The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac” was published in a matching edition with the Field you just bought. I usually have a spare copy, but not right now. Happy hunting!


  10. Nan August 20, 2012 / 12:02 pm

    Oh my gosh, you DO know how to live, Thomas! Will be eagerly awaiting your posts after you read them.


  11. Margaret Evans Porter August 20, 2012 / 6:13 pm

    It appears that Sarah's Books and I have the same carpenter/contractor. My house is filled with bookcases strikingly similar to those in her shop.


  12. Amanda August 21, 2012 / 2:12 pm

    I just had multiple bookgasms. If I smoked I'd need a cigarette haul right now. So much book goodness…


  13. Unknown August 21, 2012 / 6:10 pm

    did you run across Lobster Lane Books in Spruce Head? It was always one of my favorites and so eccentric! I know the owner, Vivien, passed away but I believe her daughter has kept it going. Also, I note that ABCD in Camden has closed. They had a fabulous collection, but things were often high priced. This may not have gone over well with cheap book hunters like you and me, but what a beautiful shop they had. So sad when bookstores close.


  14. Thomas at My Porch August 22, 2012 / 9:21 am

    CB: Believe it or not we didn't choose our vacation location based on bookstores. I did know from past expereince that there were a lot of them in the area so before we left on the trip I went to the website for the Maine Antiquarian Booksellers Association and made a list in geographical order of all the shops we might be near on our trip. I guess for me a real book trip would be to Hay-on-Wye.

    Karen: Instead of paying money to have bookshelves installed, you should have that same person just build nice stand alone shelves that you can take with you.

    Susan: Some of the ones I am most itching to get to don't fit in with my Century of Books madness. There are a lot that duplicate years I have already read.

    Juxtabook: What an awesome link. My personal favorite is FARTS: Follows you around recommending the stock.

    Rachel: It is funny you should say that. As I was combing through these shops I was thinking how it would be fun to have a like minded book buddy to share the moment. Then I realized we would be competing for the same books and quickly decided it was a bad idea.

    Simon: There are actually three books by Rostenberg & Stern. I have already read one of theirs called Old Books in the Old World. I really liked it. You can read my ruminations here: http://myporchblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/book-review-old-books-in-old-world.html

    Diane: Definitly go to the Maine Antiquarian Booksellers Association website so you know what is there in advance. Some don't exactly knock you on the head unless you know where to look.

    Joan: Oh my, in the same edition? I think that just became my bookhunt holy grail.

    Geranium: Yeah, the Mackail has me very pleased and I haven't even read it yet.

    Sarah: And one more thing you might appreciate: I'm really only interested in used bookstores. I find new bookstores quite boring these days.

    Nan: The pressure is on now.

    Margaret: Maybe you should open a book stall…

    Amanda: It was a lot of fun that is for sure.

    Unknown: We DID run across Lobster Lane Books. My husband is the one who stumbled across it online and it is just minutes from where we stayed in Port Clyde. I am pretty sure I only bought one thing there. John bought three. I must say though, it is the only bookstore where I have ever felt clausterphobic. Even though no one was near me back in the fiction, I was starting to have a bit of an anxiety attach. Standing perpendicular to the shelves my shoulders pretty much touched books on both sides. This coupled with deadend rows and a really low ceiling (I'm 6'2″)had me gasping for air.


  15. michelle August 22, 2012 / 3:38 pm

    This is just my favourite kind of post, peeking into other people's bookshelves and bounties! Great stuff you've got there. Enjoy :)


  16. winstonsdad August 23, 2012 / 2:37 pm

    simply wonderful haul ,great shops by the look ,all the best stu


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