11 April 2011

I for Independent Bookstores

This post is brought to you by the letter I.

I've started passing through Dupont Circle on my way to class on Mondays and walking past Kramerbooks. I've been inside a half dozen times, but I've never bought anything. Spending $14 on a paperback book I don't even know if I'll like seems outrageous. But I also feel guilty for not supporting a local independent bookstore.

Von's, the place where I discovered that
secondhand books are awesome.
What I do support is local independent secondhand bookstores. (Not those chain used-book stores.) There's something compelling about the independent secondhand bookstores. Maybe it's that they're in unique buildings. Maybe it's that they're owned and operated by friendly locals. Maybe it's just the vanilla absolute smell of pre-loved books packed in precarious towers at the ends of aisles, just as they frequently congregate in my bedroom when the bookcase is bursting.

My first favorite was Von's Book Shop in West Lafayette, Indiana. They are an independent bookstore (stocking new books) but I fell hard for Von's when a dear friend took me into the basement where there are thousands of used books, quietly waiting for you to discover them. I spent many hours among these books, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend or my sister.

Note: Their website is www.holeintheweb.com
My favorite here in northern Virginia is Hole in the Wall Books. I've been maybe five times and never left without at least three books. (And $14 = 5 books.) It's a highly enjoyable place to unwind and discover something new or even rediscover something. My favorite rediscovery so far is Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy!

So, even though I don't buy anything at the hot, hip indie bookstores, I guess I do support local bookstores: the secondhand ones.

Go, secondhand!

Now you!
Do you have a favorite independent bookstore? Do you have a secondhand bookstore you haunt? Do you buy from the big chains? (I still like Borders.)