If I am to get through all 100 of these things before I die, I am going to have to start posting these more often. So I have compiled a list and now need photographs for many and write ups for others. In any case, without further ado…
I love used books stores. Just the idea of hunting in one of these places excites me. I don’t know where I will start, probably looking for some rarer science fiction, fantasy or mystery novels. Then off to kids books for the kids, cookbooks for intriguing recipes, computer books for ancient books about programming the Apple ][, photography, plays, literature, history, spanish language…
All of these ‘destinations’ will just be a pretext though, a spot to move on to as I search through the stacks and the boxes… looking for things that catch my attention. Actually looking for things that spark interest in me, sometimes a new interest, sometimes a long forgotten one.
Used books stores offer the last opportunity for me to search for treasure in life.
When I was young we used to go down to the US a couple of times a year for vacations, as our family is all from Washington and Oregon. On these trips I would get a little while to spend my allowance in some sort of convenience store stocking up on candies we didn’t get in Canada. Jolly Ranchers, Milk Duds, Hubba Bubba, the list could go on for pages. I would look forward to the trip (yes, I really loved-strike that love-candy) for ages beforehand and I would covet my treasure trove of purchases for as long as I could after. Unfortunately, distributors brought all of those same candies into Canada. Luckily by then, it was computer games and computer programming books that had caught my interest. We didn’t have any of the great computer game stores in Canada when the Software Etc, and EB Games were in malls throughout the US. I would plan for these trips and love my purchases. I would talk to friends endlessly about my impending treasure hunts and we would share the books and games upon my return. Unfortunately this too ended, as book stores in Canada supply every book the US does in the same time period and the computer game chains moved north as well. Movie stores, clothing stores, pet crap stores, you name it. We have it all now.
I remember as a kid talking about how ridiculous it was that we didn’t get stuff in Canada as fast as the US, but it never dawned on me how important it was to me that we didn’t. From these experiences I have gleaned the wisdom that I know hold as my internal mantra. ‘It is good to want things’. The wanting, the planning, the journey and the anticipation have all been stolen from me, and with the advent of the internet, stolen from us all.
We now immediately know whatever it is we want to. We can research and acquire anything. How much is that rookie card at the garage sale really worth: eBay; how much should I pay for the first edition of Delta of Venus by Anais Ninn: Bookfinder.com; the old vinyl Rolling Stones album: amazon… Really, the free flow of goods and knowledge has taken away a whole dimension of anticipation and supposition. Still, I am not writing about things that make me unhappy, so I will get back to my point.
Used bookstores are filled with so much information, so many books that you wouldn’t ever have known that they had existed in the world. By browsing through the aisles you really get one of the last opportunities for a treasure hunt. Sure, the bookstore owner has already gone through all of his or her books and pulled out anything with any value and sold those online, but still, some items only have value to you. These are the real treasures, amid the book lovers, the boxes of yet unsorted books, the musty book smell… All used bookstores are the same. There is so little organization, different bookshelves, obviously acquired at different times. Bizarre other items that the bookseller is selling because… well, he or she can.
There is a true love of books in these stores. Clearly no one figured running a used bookstore was a get rich quick scheme. I love people who love books. To me, it is like these people clearly have their values right. I don’t need to ask them anything, I just know they are good people. Like William of Baskerville in ‘The Name of the Rose’, a person who sees the value of protecting written knowledge is always on the side of good.