Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Read into it

Reading is everything so nothing is as fun as buying stacks of books. Especially from used book stores that smell old and have good character. Usually doing anything in the reckless manner with which I buy books sends people to rehab/jail, but books make us better people, and no one has proven it's possible to buy too many.

Here are some of my favorite book buying places.

Magers & Quinn - Hennepin Ave, Uptown
This is one of the best. Here is a picture of me buying a M&Q bag. Is logo stuff too Barnes and Noble? Whatever. It's a cute bag.
I love M&Q for their masterful offering of everything - new books at a (usually) slightly discounted price, lots of old, hardcover classics, and a strong selection of coffee table, gifty type offerings. It feels bigger with every visit but this is unburdensome because they are magically organized in such a way that you don't get lost or overwhelmed. But obviously not too well organized. Places like this can't be too perfect, and must offer a certain amount of haphazard discovery so browsers can feel triumphant and well read in making their careful selections. 

The Minnehaha Academy Arena Sale - mid September
What? Not a bookstore. But friends, this is where grocery bags of books are so financially feasible as to be obligatory. Tip: After lunch on Saturday everything is half-off and books can be bought by the ton. At the last sale I got books because I liked the covers, books that looked funny, sort of interesting, and a book about Madeleine Albright because, let's be honest, who knows as much as they should about Madeleine Albright? I still don't because I haven't read it yet, but the necessary resource is a few feet from where I am sitting right now.

Common Good Books - Snelling Ave, St Paul

Also known as Garrison Keillor's bookstore, this is a delightful place that makes you feel part of the modern literary world. If you're living in the past with Dickens, Austen, James or Homer (the like, way past), CGB provides direction with a discerning selection of newer books smart people are reading for book club. As a half-way convert to the idea new can be as good as old, I navigate the waters of things written less than 50 years ago with uncertainty. This is why stores like CGB are so important, they don't lead astray with dumb new books.

That is, if I find out they stocked '50 Shades of Grey' I'm taking them off the list and burning down the building.

Barnes and Noble - Everywhere, but not as everywhere as it used to be

Obviously the lowest lit snob cred of anything here but still a valuable resource because it's a good place to meet someone for coffee and then 'oh look we can read stuff too'. And it's where people go if they aren't sure about the whole reading thing or are just getting in to it. We need something for everyone. Another good name for B&N would be 'The Library Supply Store' because it's a one stop shop for books, calendars, nice pens and paper, and pointless things to put on shelves, and it's neat to have all that stuff in one spot. Plus, the word library inspires vision and pride. Rather than simply buying a book, one is building a library. If someone's 'vision' leans towards Nora Roberts, maybe they could start thinking about how it will look in their LIBRARY and not buy it.

Midway Used & Rare Books - University Ave, St Paul

I've only been here once but this shop has a miraculous number of books that tower above you in narrow aisles like a deconstructed forest.  This is the oldest store on the list and is the long ago sort of place people sent typewritten letters inquiring about certain volumes (for their LIBRARIES). It has 3 floors of everything - new, even more old, comic books, collectors/first editions, so it's perhaps good to have a general subject area to focus on per trip. Unless you've got 8 hours, in which case by all means camp out for the day improving your mind.Tip: there is a parking lot behind the store.