Special Bookstore Finds

I’m obsessed with used bookstores-- partly because I’m too cheap to pay full price for a brand-new book, but also because I love not quite knowing what I’ll find. From memorable inscriptions, notes in the margins, pictures and other objects as forgotten placeholders, unique titles, to gorgeous cover art, I’d love to see others’ favorite unexpected bookstore finds.

Over the weekend, I wandered into a Russian Language Used Bookstore. I regrettably don’t speak Russian, but was curious anyway. Lucky for me, I found this book of Medieval Russian Folktales in English! (For only $1.50, might I add.) I’m in love with the cover art. I was so thrilled by this find!


Last week I popped into a thrift shop in Midtown Manhattan and ended up walking out with The Nancy Drew Cookbook:

pub 1974. Most of the recipe titles are crime puns and there are little interludes with characters from the series. It’s delightful.


That’s amazing.

Bought this Taylor Caldwell book more than a decade ago for $.50 from a used bookstore in a nearby city from my two years in South Texas before I moved on. I originally read Grandmother and the Priests when I was still living in Asia and it was meeting an old friend once again so I could not pass up the opportunity to make the purchase. Note that the front (and back) cover is all laminated in packing tape due to its fragility.

More recent acquisitions from Beers Books, which sells rare, used and overstocked books, during a trip to Sacramento a few weeks ago.


Got this in the bargain bin one day, many years ago, simply because I had never read about physics before and it was available for cheap. Started me on a lifelong fascination with the stuff.

And this one actually from the grocery store check out line. I am thoroughly entertained by how deeply emphatic the title is.


There Are No Bad Dogs looks like the kind of book I would write.


I love this question! I worked at a large used bookstore in NYC called The Strand for many years, and all sorts of amazing things used to come across the buying desk, or fall out of old books. I don’t have pictures at the ready, but some of the more amazing things I remember were a signed copy of Helen Keller’s autobiography, a stack of Isaac Asimov headshots, and picture of a random baby that we drew a mustache on, and named Nintendo Batman Jr. But maybe my favorite used book that I ever got my hands on was a copy of Ricky Jay’s Cards as Weapons, one of the few books about how to throw cards.


I found this at a giant used book sale in Ithaca, NY, last fall.

An excerpt: “Mrs. Lena Campbell, an attractive forty-year-old widow from Birmingham, England, is alive and well today thanks to—of all things—a phantom lizard with glowing green skin that leapt at her and frightened her out of her wits.”

Obviously, I purchased this.


Oh, and then there’s these, which I found on a shelf at Powell’s City of Books in Portland. It is a big book regret of mine that I did not purchase at least 2 or 3 of these. I’m not even from Virginia.


The Strand is an amazing place. You must have seen some crazy things, such an interesting place.


It was definitely an experience! haha

My, this is awfully comprehensive!

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This sounds exactly up my alley.

I found this delightfully almost-vintage (1982) ESL book at a used bookstore for 3€. Each spread or page has a number of photos of signs and some questions for the student to answer based on the information in the signs.

I’m a child of the late-1980s so my earliest memories are from the 1990s, but did the late 1970s/early 1980s really look like that?

(P.S. Can anybody hook me up with the other volumes in the series, “Looking at American Food” and “Looking at American Recreation”? Unlikely I’ll find them here in Finland…)


Wow, what an awesome find!!

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So cool!

Most library markings are not particularly pretty, but I love the spine label and vendor tag on this copy of Joan Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted I found at HPB. There’s just something simple and charming I liked about ~the aesthetic~.

And speaking of library books…I once found a lost book belonging to my library at a used book store near campus. One of the first things I did in my current job was change our spine label font to Consolas, so naturally a book with a label in that font caught my eye really quickly. Our development dept regularly sells books we don’t want to the HPB I was at, but I felt compelled to flip through the book. No withdrawn stamp anywhere on the book made my “alarm” go off so I pulled out my phone and sure enough, the book with the same barcode on the item I had in hand was listed in our catalog as lost. The clerks were very nice when I explained the issue and immediately removed it from their stock. It wasn’t even a valuable or expensive book, but I really couldn’t ignore it once realizing it was ours!


There was a bookshelf full of antique Eugene Field books at a bookstore near University of California, Berkeley. I think they were asking a few hundred dollars for the whole collection. Not really having the space to store them properly at home, I thought about buying them for too long; the bookstore went out of business and I don’t know the fate of those volumes.


That’s so sad. I hate to hear when bookstores go out of business, especially long-time, locally-owned shops.

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Forgive me, but can’t resist…retired librarian. https://www.rd.com/culture/things-librarians-found-returned-books/1/