I was discussing books with a friend recently and the conversation brought on an interesting idea for this week’s Aged Pages post. I know there’s much for me to cover in this series, and I could save this topic for later on, but I felt like getting it out in the open when I was still thinking about it.
There are many reasons I love to shop at used bookstores. These range from the pricing to the employees and to the unique selection that can vary from one store to the next. I’ll revisit these topics in the weeks to come. For today I’d like to let you all know one great reason I buy from used stores. The hidden gems!
I’ve found my fair share of hidden gems over the years. What hasn’t happened often at all, is finding a great random book at a place like Barnes & Noble. And what do I mean by a hidden gem?
To clarify, when I say “hidden gem” I mean a book that I found by a not so well-known author, a not so well-known title by even a well-known author, or just some random book that you might not have chosen if you had found it on a B&N shelf.
I have a few reasons why I don’t shop (when I can help it) at a store like B&N. A big reason is that I can’t afford books from there. When a hardcover is well over $20 and a mass market paperback is around $7-$10 I just can’t do that. I’d rather wait around a year for a book to possibly make its way to my local bookstore. Once it’s there it’ll be anywhere from $1-$5 depending on the format (pb or hc). For me this works out well because for the price of one new book I can get 10, 20, or even more at times, used books. My collection thrives because of this. (quick disclaimer: I’m not here to discuss why I think some book prices are absurd. I don’t like them, but I have an understanding of why they are “high” to a certain extent. I just like saving my money when there’s an alternative.)
I’m sure you’d like to know some of the gems I’ve found. There are many, and every book I own has its own story of how I came about buying it (one day I’ll go through the stacks and bore someone for hours talking about every one of them 😉 ).
First up: Extreme Ironing
This is a book that I bought for $2 simply because I found the concept hilarious. It is labeled as a “humour” book (yes it’s from a UK publisher). I honestly thought this book was just a joke. I thought someone had the concept in mind and set about photographing it and wrote text to go along with it. I was wrong. While I was reading it, I googled the “sport.” It really exists. That just makes this find even better. I don’t think I would have spent the £7.99 cover price if I had found it in a big name store though. It wasn’t worth that much to me, even after reading it. Two bucks seemed reasonable.
Second: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Wilderness Volume 1
I know what you’re thinking. How could this really be a hidden gem? Jim Morrison is a rock n’ roll GOD!!! He is. I’m not basing this on the “Lost” part in the title Though, I think some people might overlook his writing outside of the Doors lyrics. At the time I found this book, I was just getting into the Doors. I had just read “Riders On The Storm” an autobiography by the Doors’ drummer John Densmore and wanted to read more of Jim’s words.
This was my first glimpse into Morrison’s words outside of the songs I was listening to. I enjoyed every minute of it. These poems are strange, hard to get, but beautiful in a way only Jim could make them. This is another $13 (1988 pricing) I wouldn’t have spent in B&N though. Why is that? Because I have gotten a good amount more books on the Doors/Morrison for cheaper than that TOTAL.
Lastly (since I don’t have space for too much more before I bore you): The Potsdam Tradition
What the hell is this book? Well it’s a book about the college I graduated from with my Bachelors in Creative Writing. It’s the reason I can sit on my ass all day and type up the random words that you are reading now.
The book is a history of the college up until the 1960s (it was published in 1966). I was surprised to see this in my local store to be honest. Until I was looking for SUNY schools offering a B.A. in Creative Writing, I never heard of Potsdam, NY….let alone “the North Country.” That’s why I grabbed it. I wanted to know more about the college I attended. I also thought “wow, when will I get a chance to read this book again?”
It wasn’t the cheapest purchase that day, being that it was $8 ($5.95 cover price, 1966,) but the history books in my store are a bit more money. I didn’t mind much. It’s not very easy to find online from the quick search I just did. Amazon has it for as little as $6…but when would I ever have seen it online and been like “I should buy that book”? Seeing it in person in a used book setting solidified my decisions to purchase it.
Here was just a small selection of cool, sometimes random books I’ve found. These were only from one store too. While I’m not stating that you can’t find a great random book at a place like Barnes & Noble, or that you can’t buy an author who you’ve never heard of before for full price (that is how they make money to make another book), I’m hoping I gave you the sense that there’s less of a risk factor in taking the chance on a used book. Also in going to a B&N I normally have a title in mind and don’t stray from that book. The only times I do give myself the chance to find a hidden B&N gem is when I look in the bargain section. I have on occasion found some there for around $5.
Are there any books you’ve taken a chance with, even if you’ve NEVER heard of them before? Was it a good decision or a bad one?