Saturday, September 20, 2008


The child and I took advantage of the gray weather of the late-summer Pacific Northwest to hunt through the stacks of some of Tacoma's used bookstores on Friday.

McBEATTIE'S BOOK SHOPPE of the Sixth Avenue Business District is a store that specializes almost exclusively in mass market paperback genre fiction—science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, action adventure. I don't read mass market paperbacks anymore, preferring the larger book size and larger print of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. I like to feel the heft of the book in my hand. I like my aging eyes to be able to read the print of the book.

But this is the perfect place for people who prefer the smaller size of mass market books or want to get some great bargains on their favorite authors in their favorite genres.

Since most of McBeattie's shelves are sized to hold mass markets, the few trade paperbacks, and even rarer hardcovers, are allocated space on the top shelves as "oversized" books. I found that rather amusing.

CULPEPPER BOOKS of the Proctor District has a good selection of mass markets, trade paperbacks, hardcovers, first editions, and antiquarian books. They also had a good layout for their different sections.

Individual sections were easy to locate and books were neatly displayed. I didn't find what I was looking for—novels or short story collections by Jim Shepard—but, then, I didn't find them in any of the stores we visited.

TEACHING TOYS & BOOKS of the Proctor District is mostly a toy store, and contains no used books. Its selection of children's books is all new. We mostly visited it because we were nearby at Culpepper Books. We did manage to purchase a "rainbow-lead" colored pencil and a 24-piece myriorama (also known as The Endless Landscape, a picture puzzle that you can lay out in any order and still have it make visual sense).

HALF PRICE BOOKS of the Tacoma Mall District is the corporate giant of used books, with around 100 stores in fifteen states. They carry more books in their one location than any of the other stores we visited. But, they also function more like a Barnes & Noble or Borders than any of those other stores do, even though they sell used books, remainders, and bargain books. Troy's Work Table picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie's National Book Award winning teen novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and the child selected Quincy, the Hobby Photographer: The Complete Guide to Do-It-Yourself Dog Photography by J. Otto Seibold, author and illustrator of our favorite Olive and Mr. Lunch children's books.

(But they didn't have any Jim Shepard books, either.)

PARK AVENUE BOOKS of the Fern Hill District is the combination of the stocks of three previously independent used bookstores—Linda's Books, Fern Hill Books, and Boomerang Books. It was another bookstore heavily weighted toward mass market paperback genre fiction. It had a fair amount of trade paperbacks as well. It had a few categories of nonfiction that it specialized in, such as cookbooks, regional titles, and self-help, but nothing that caught my eye.

Park Avenue Books resembles my home library. There are books on shelves. There are books in boxes. There are books in bags and crates. There are piles of books stacked willy-nilly. Most of the stock is shelved, but the spines of almost every book, even the books stacked on the floor and leaning up against walls, could be viewed. It felt like home. I liked that. I just wish that more of the books were in categories that I read.


All in all, the day afforded me with the possibility of too many mass market paperbacks, too many mass market romance paperbacks, and too many mass market Regency romance paperbacks. Tacoma Book Center and King's Books will still be my two mainstay Tacoma used bookstores, since they both tend to carry broad and deep selections of trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

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