I like books. A lot. Seriously. Growing up there was literally a book case in every room of the house each filled with books and before you say "Yeah right, like you had a bookcase in the bathroom" well no we didn't but the linen closet wasn't full of linens. It was full of books.
And we had all kind of books too. Kids books that were my sister's and mine, old text books, instructional books, mysteries, and westerns. Lots of westerns.
We weren't uppity either. It never mattered where the books came from. Retail bookstores, used bookstores, yard sales, and thrift shops. If there were books to be had my family was there sorting through them all.
When I was really little we used to go to a really awesome used book store in Morro Bay, California called "The Book Peddlar". It's no longer there but that was one of the best places ever.
As an adult this hasn't changed. I still like bookstores. In fact, every year on our wedding anniversary my husband and I will go out to dinner and then go to Barnes & Noble and buy each other a book.
When we go on vacation I go hunting for bookstores too. So now I'm going to take the time to list some of the places I like to check out and then I'll tell you of the best place to go for used books.
Cambria, California - a local impressionist style artist, who's name I cannot remember, shares her studio space with her husband who just happens to run a little book store called The Bookery. The last time I was there he had several antique book volume sets including a very old set of the works of James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans for those who prefer the movie over the book).
Julian, California - I didn't get the name of this book store but it's just up the street from the Miner's Diner in Julian. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Julian, it's a very rustic old mining town in Southern California. The bookstore was small and really really great. Also, you could tell the owner pretty much spent all his time reading.
Taft, California - the small town of Taft (the town actually was originally called Moron, but that's another story) has a very good used book store called Ben's Books. Ben is an older gentleman who sells books. The front of the store has rare and vintage books while the back of the store has your average used book store findings.
Kennet Square, Pennsylvania - this was, I feel, one of the best bookstores ever. One thing about the Eastern regions of the U.S. is the fact that the best antiques and vintage items tend not to find their way West. As with a lot of these stores, I didn't get the name, but Kennet Square is small so it wouldn't be hard to find the book store. In addition to vintage and rare books there were also old maps and magazines, books on every subject imaginable and even books in foreign languages.
Random Monuments of Washington DC - so places in DC like the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial which are famous for their architecture surrounding the statue of whomever is being memorialized actually have little book shops off to the side. They are tiny but are just wall to wall books of the subject of that memorial. While not used book stores, they are pretty neat.
Now for the best place to get used books.
It's actually the Book Sale periodically held at the Coalinga District Library in Coalinga, California. But why would a random book sale at a library be the best place? Many reasons. For starters, it's good memories. My mom always took us to the library when we were kids. I had a library card before I could even write my own name. On an interesting side note the Coalinga District Library is part of the San Joaquin Library System which means that same library card I got when I was young is still in my wallet and works at all the libraries here in Bakersfield.
There are other reasons though. They sell more then just library discards, they also sell books donated from various places. This means that if you have a pile of books and no time to hold a yard sale you can just donate them like you would to any old thrift store except the proceeds from that donation go to the library.
Another reason is all the interesting things we've found there over the years. Books from the International Collectors Library (there'll be a future blogpost on those), rare books (my mom once found a misprint book containing of two stories by Robert Louis Stevenson from the 1800s), first editions (recently we got a first edition of Lost Horizon) and ridiculously reasonable prices. The library doesn't have the resources to research each book they sell so there's a generalized pricing. As I recall, and don't quote me on this, but it tends to be $1 for a hard cover book and 50 cents for paperback. Also towards the final days of the sale they have been known just to hand you a box and tell you to fill it up and charge a low flat rate for the whole thing.
The book sales though aren't widely advertised. 90% of the time someone in my family will discover the sale just because they saw the sign out front while driving by. The library though does now have a Facebook page and they will announce book sale dates there as well.