A used bookstore I didn’t like

img_2534On our trip to another city last month,  I was quite excited to check out what appeared to be a ginormous used bookstore. I even saw a short documentary about the owner that I found quite admirable.

From almost the minute I entered I didn’t like it. I think it has done a good job providing the general public with books they want to buy, but for someone like me who wants to root around and find some unpopular, unheard of novels, it didn’t offer much.

I’m not going to name the bookstore, but I am going to tell you what I didn’t like.


img_2538Too much book “art”. I don’t like seeing books abused, particularly when I feel like that kind of books I am looking for are the ones that don’t make it to the sale shelves.

Too many local looky-lous who seemed to consider it a part of their Saturday night outing, the fact that it was a bookstore was neither here nor there to them. Lots of 20-somethings taking their pictures next to the book “art”.

The classics were separated from the general fiction, further diminishing the chance that I might find something from mid-century by lesser known novelists. All the classics were, of course, the big boys (sic). And among the general fiction there was no chance of finding an esoteric little tidbit. It was one of those things where I seemed to know every title on the shelves. It shouldn’t be that way.

I actually found a Dorothy Canfield Fisher book in this section. That kind of sums up my problem with the place. Because the fiction section was too full of well known authors and books, the decorative section was the only one I found interesting enough to comb through.

There was nothing about the atmosphere that encouraged serious browsing as well. The lighting was either too low or too harsh, the music was annoying and loud…I know I sound like a grumpy old man. It is certainly a place that other people love, but for the die hard book nerd, not so much.

This wall in the rare book room was about the only thing I found pleasant.
This wall in the rare book room was about the only thing I found to be pleasant.

37 thoughts on “A used bookstore I didn’t like

  1. Rob February 12, 2017 / 2:35 am

    I don’t know if I’ve come across a decorative book section in a bookstore, but something about that seems very wrong to me.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 10:59 pm

      I know a few places that sell books by the foot according to binding color, age, style, etc., but they don’t let book browser look at them. If I was rich I would buy them all just to be able to comb through them for hidden gems.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:00 pm

      I did leave much sooner than I would have expected before I went in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MarinaSofia February 12, 2017 / 4:59 am

    Wow, I didn’t think there was a second-hand bookshop that I didn’t like, but yes, that one does not appeal to me. I know for a fact though that some of them get orders of ‘two metres of white and red books’ from interior decorators for their clients, so yes, what can I say?


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:01 pm

      To me the only decorative book is one that I want to read or have read.


  3. BookerTalk February 12, 2017 / 7:15 am

    A good rest of whether they want to be an art venue or a bookshop would be to ask to buy one of those books in their carefully constructed installations, knowing it will collapse once said volume is removed. If they say yes you know they are book lovers…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:01 pm

      I am pretty sure they are permanent bolted together.


  4. Karen K. February 12, 2017 / 10:56 am

    That store looks too hip for me. Harrumph.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:02 pm

      Harrumph is exactly the right word.


  5. Liz Dexter February 12, 2017 / 10:57 am

    I want to know where that is so I can avoid it! So disappointing!


  6. kaggsysbookishramblings February 12, 2017 / 1:01 pm

    I can understand why you hated this – so hipster! And bad lighting in a bookshop is stupid. I object to books being shelved as decoration – I can’t see there would be any fun browsing here and no chance of those wonderful random finds that are the fun of second hand places. Not for me…


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:03 pm

      And all of those bad things together really made for a negative experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jeane February 12, 2017 / 1:27 pm

    That’s so disappointing. I admit I thought the first picture of ‘book art’ looked cool- that round window form. But the other- wow, way too unstable and how would you ever get a book out that you actually want to buy? It makes them an object not something to read, unless they are of the ‘popular’ genres which is really very sad. I would not go back there, either. It’s obvious they don’t cater to real bibliophiles who would hunt for a lucky, obscure find.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:04 pm

      Most of the book used in the “art” pieces were truly titles no one would want. But that gets subjective pretty quickly. And it’s all bolted together so no danger in anything coming apart.


  8. Alejandro XVIII (@rdzogschen) February 13, 2017 / 6:55 am

    I didn’t like the that bookstore either, though my non-bookish friends found it welcoming and spent time browsing.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:05 pm

      I think for less bookish folks it is probably a fun place to look through.


  9. Pat February 13, 2017 / 2:09 pm

    I was at an auction recently where the auctioneer described one lot of books as “good shelf furniture”. I needed smelling salts!


  10. travellinpenguin February 13, 2017 / 7:04 pm

    Loud music in a book store and millennials with selfies. Aghhhh. I was in a bookshop in Sydney and saw a fairly rare Penguin crime book in the window. I asked to buy it and was told I couldn’t because it was part of the window decoration. I won’t tell you what I said to myself. People get too trendy for the good of the world. So sad.


  11. Ruthiella February 15, 2017 / 4:26 pm

    I know exactly where you were because I have been there too and I even bought a few books there. I like the tunnel of books because I think it looks pretty neat. I don’t recall the music being loud or the lighting being bad. As for hipsters, well, if you are in downtown L.A., that is what you are going to encounter along with everyone else.

    If you go all the way to the top floor, all the books are $1.00 and they are’t arranged at all, so that might have appealed more to your need to root around for gems.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:07 pm

      As far as I could see there were only two floors. Are you telling me I missed a whole floor of $1 books?! I’m going to need a sedative to sleep tonight.


  12. Susan in TX February 16, 2017 / 8:50 pm

    Don’t think I would’ve lasted very long…


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:07 pm

      It was an especial let down because I had been plotting the visit for a month or so.


  13. Rachel W. February 16, 2017 / 11:46 pm

    I completely understand that reaction, and had a similar experience the last time I was here.

    If you visit the area again soon, I think this store is an absolute gem:


    In terms of backlist titles and older books, they give Powell’s some serious competition.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:09 pm

      I would have loved that place, but it would have required too much time in the car.


  14. Deb February 17, 2017 / 8:56 am

    As someone I will not name would say, sad! I live in a suburb that lost its last used book store over ten years ago. We have a quarterly Friends of the Library book sale where I have acquired a few interesting books; but, believe it or not, my favorite place to now browse for hidden gems is at the Goodwill. Our local Goodwill has an entire back section lined with books, thrown on the shelves in completely random fashion. Yes, you have to work your way past numerous self-help books, right-wing political screeds (it’s comforting to note that many of those appear unread), potboilers, and techno-thrillers, but I’ve found quite a few book that have been on my radar for years. Anyway, it might be worth a shot because, sadly, I think the kind of used book store that we used to love to visit is rapidly going the way of the dodo bird.


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:10 pm

      That’s just the kind of situation I like. A jumble.


    • GretchenJoanna February 21, 2017 / 12:11 am

      I know a man who long long ago put his children through college with the profits from his mail-order used-book business. He couldn’t compete with Amazon and is retired now. Once a week he donates a morning to sort the books that come into a local thrift store run by a Catholic agency. It always saddened him to see the disarray, and the store made very little money on the books. Now that he has them in some kind of order their income from books has increased several fold. I rarely have the kind of mental strength – or time – to enjoy myself when faced with a couple thousand books essentially in one chaotic pile.


  15. GretchenJoanna February 18, 2017 / 2:12 pm

    Your mention of the bad lighting reminds me of a store that I never was able to visit, but I heard of from so many people, A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco. Sadly, it closed more than ten years ago, but I didn’t know that until I looked it up just now.

    I have seen pictures on Facebook of that kind of “book art” and the sight of inaccessible books always makes me want to look at one of those most of all. I think I would be very uncomfortable in a bookstore such as you experienced and would escape as quickly as possible!


    • Thomas February 20, 2017 / 11:12 pm

      I love the name of that book store. I would amend it slightly to A Clean Well-LIghted Place for Books that is Not Too Hot or Cold and has a Clean Bathroom.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Annabel (gaskella) February 21, 2017 / 5:55 am

    They’d obviously modelled the store as a ‘destination’ to get footfall – but how many buy?


  17. Weezelle May 18, 2017 / 7:57 am

    I, literally, just read an article about this shop on LitHub (having never heard of it before and not being likely to trip over it since I live in Melbourne). It was written from the perspective of someone who works in the shop and gets sick of it being treated as a tourist destination. They didn’t get a lot of work satisfaction from that part of their job…


  18. dfarabee April 2, 2018 / 4:18 pm

    I happened on this bookstore this last weekend. I had a very similar experience to you –I left with three mystery novels from the $1 shelves in the foyer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.