Tuesday, July 15, 2008
BooksFirst - Summer Vacation 2008
One of the secondary goals of my summer vacation was to get to as many independent and used book stores as possible. I didn't didn't do any research ahead of time to make a list and visit any on purpose, but if we were in an area with one (which was often), I stopped in and browsed. I felt obligated to find at least one book I wanted in each store. Since I didn't actually read any books while on vacation, I'm breaking my standard format for these BooksFirst posts and divide the Books Bought section down by bookstore.
Tim's Used Books - Hyannis, MA
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Located on Main Street in the busy tourist area of Hyannis, this store is large and well organized. The fiction area was along one side wall and had a great mix of contemporary and classic writers. I went with the Toni Morrison book, because I'm feeling I need to add a little heft to my reading list. We'll see if I can get through Morrison's sometimes difficult style.
Brewster Book Store - Brewster, MA
This bookstore is one of the more famous bookstores on the Cape and was the closest to our rental. One afternoon I went antiquing with the three wives on the trip. We had lunch at Brewster Fish House and then went to Brewster Books Store. Crammed into a small house right on the Antique Row of Route 6A, this is a high-end new book store. Nearly half the store is devoted to children's and young adult books. The rest is a quality mix of recent releases, local interest books, and general stock. It packs a lot into a small space. While I didn't buy any books myself, my wife bought a couple of midlde-school-age fantasies that would appeal to Paoli or Pullman fans.
Yellow Umbrella Books - Chatham, MA
The Soft Machine by William Burroughs
Another highly advertised store located on Main Street in Chatham, it had a great selection of local interest. It's along narrow store with the new books in the front and used selections in the back. My son picked up the first book in the series that my wife had bought at Brewster Books. He ended up reading the first three of the series on the car ride home.
Tim's Used Books - Provincetown, MA
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell (autographed)
I'm pretty sure this Tim's has nothing to do with the Tim's in Hyannis. The one in Provincetown is the archetypal house that has been taken over by a bookstore. Tucked away off the main drag, this wood frame house has all four ground floor rooms filled with shelves with the check-out stand being a large desk in what would be the living room.
The selection was disorganized and spotty, but the there was a great assortment of modern first editions, a lot of them signed. I read Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation two years ago and loved her quirky style. And here was a signed copy of another travel book by her. What was there to lose?
Lyrical Ballad Bookstore - Saratoga Springs, NY
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (signed limited edition)
Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen
H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
Science and the Modern World by Alfred North Whitehead
This bookstore was the most serendipitous find on the entire trip. We had dropped our son off at an old friend's house and we went into Saratoga Springs to check it out. On a side street was Lyrical Ballad Books (and I just learned that is the title to a William Wordsworth poetry connection). I told my wife I was just going to dash in for a few moments and then immediately got lost.
The store rambles around from room to room and is quite cluttered. Normally, I don't like the piles of books on the floor type of store, but for Lyrical Ballads it worked. Every room was full of treasures and I had to put back several books just to save me from myself.
Then at the checkout counter I casually mentioned that I collect Kurt Vonnegut first editions and I didn't see any on the collectible shelves. He ran to the back and brought out a limited edition signed collectors edition of Galapagos. It was pricey, but I had to have it.
While hanging around I then mentioned I also collect John D. MacDonald paperbacks. He named a few, but they were all titles I knew I already had. Instead, he rummaged around and found a back issue of Firsts, the magazine for book collectors that had a special JDM issue. I added that to the purchases and walked out of the store giddy.
Lyrical Ballad is one of the greatest used book stores I have ever been in and I found it strictly by chance.
Bear Pond Books - Montpelier, VT
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
While tooling around central Vermont eating dairy products (a topic for another post), I decided to stop for dinner in Montpelier, Vermont. Montpelier is the state capital but has a funky old-fashioned vibe. And there were bookstores all over the place. Bear Pond Books was a new book store and it showed a lot of personal touches. As you would imagine, the selection leaned to the granola crunching side, but it worked. The books displayed were interesting and diverse. I went with Omnivore's Dilemma (which is nothing like Portnoy's Complaint) because I have heard a lot about it and it is out in a trade paperback edition and it seemed the right book to get from this store.
Rivendell Books - Montpelier, VT
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead by Crystal Zevon
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
Within rock-throwing distance of Bear Pond Books (if you have a good arm and some small rocks) is Rivendell Books which uses the Powell's style of mixing new and used books on the same shelves. It also had a distinct feel which was a little more relaxed and loose. Everywhere I turned there was something interesting, but by now my bag of books was getting heavy and I needed to taper off the buying binge.
I just love bookstores and visiting a whole bunch of independent new and used stores gave me a great appreciation for how good it is to be beyond the BigBoxOfBooks chains. Small bookstores can be just as fascinating by focusing the selection and making browsing an experience.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Where have you found a good bookstore unexpectedly?