2/07/2009

Independent Bookstores

If I'm not careful here, this blog is going to turn into some less funnier version of "Stuff White People Like" ( if you don't know what I'm talking about, just google that and you will soon know what I mean) but since many of my posts are devoted to books and reading, I might as well get this one out of the way. OF COURSE I love bookstores of all kinds, and am not one of these Luddites who complain about the Internet and kindle and all that .......(oh, wait, yes I did!) Without amazon, I couldn't find half the really obscure stuff I look for on any given day. But it must be noted that bricks and mortar bookstores, especially independently owned ones, serve special functions that Internet shopping sites can never fulfill. I make it a point to check out everything from the mom-and-pops to the really famous ones ( such as The Strand in NYC, City Lights in San Francisco,The Bodhi Tree in West LA) everywhere I go.
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Independent bookstores create collections with depth and breath, each famous for it's own specialties, and usually have knowledgeable staff that can guide and enlighten the book browser in ways an Internet browser never can. Do you ever wonder about those "recommendations" that pop up when you shop at amazon? I find myself having weird little conversations ( with myself, of course) about who the heck actually bought some of the stuff that is "recommended to me" or "other people who bought what you are buying also bought these" based on my purchasing patterns. Whatever algorithm is used, it rarely suggests something I would ever want. I often wonder, are there truly people who bought these ? Or is this just a totally fictional marketing strategy,based on junk they need to unload ? If so, it fails here because if you tell me someone else bought/did it, I'm the kind of person who will do the opposite. That's just the kind of gal I am.
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So, back to topic: Two of my favorite bookstores are right here in Texas (and on the web if a real life in-person visit is impossible) .Both have helpful friendly staff who will find something for you and mail it to you, if need be.
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Murder By the Book
in Houston Tx specializes in just one area : mystery and detective (and spy, espionage, thriller, suspense, etc) fiction. The collection is vast and deep within this genre, with both modern best sellers, rare collectors editions, and vintage out of print, even international tomes. The store owners and staff are extremely knowledgeable; just visiting this store is a pleasant experience due to the wood shelving, oriental rugs, leather arm chairs, cat in the corner. Author nights with book chats and autographing sessions are a regular feature. They put out their own little newsletter, available online or by snail mail, with book reviews and news of upcoming events. It is the quintessential manifestation of every book lovers ideal bookstore experience.
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Recycled Books
in Denton, TX is a vast space filled to the brim with cast-offs from years of college students ( fed by nearby TWU and UNT) and old college professors who die and their snot-nosed grown children don't want all their books so they sell them for pennies on the dollar to RB. Those kids' losses are your gain, for the selections here are not cheezy airport kiosk best-sellers. There is incredible depth and even rare collectibles in areas professors love to buy : art and music, history, literature, cooking, travel, philosophy/religion, science, and even children's books. Prepare to spend an afternoon browsing and even while prices are great (cheap) you will find yourself spending far more than you intend, the selection is that good.



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