My favorite (used)bookstore

OMAHA, NE—My favorite used bookstore is an unkept mess. It’s the neighbor to a tattoo parlor and a bar—an unlikely location for literature.

Inside, the bookstore is drastically underlit to begin with and smoky from all the cigarettes burned by the owner at his junk-strewn desk. The fire chief would not be happy. Bookshelves stretch 15 feet into the sky, far out of reach of customers and to an altitude that makes the spines illegible (except for the oversized tomes). The owners have stuffed the overflow book stock wherever they find open air, either horizontally over jammed shelving or—what appears to be the favorite option—in piles of books strewn on the floor. This overflow further congests the tight walkways. To view the recent additions to the store, shoppers must humble themselves on one knee and squat down to the floor level to view the spines. Other shoppers step over each other as the walkways. Just by posture you can determine whether someone is new to the store or a frequent visitor. The curiosity of a newbie will be satisfied by walking upright. The frequent shoppers snail along at floor level.

This makes me question who is prioritized in the store landscape. Is it the frequent shoppers or the books? And will there come a point in the store when there is no longer room for the shoppers and it becomes a pool of books with no outflow? How many more books must be added to the collection until the morning unlocking of the store will include a routine avalanche of books pouring out from the front door and out upon the sidewalk and into the street?

I have friends who despise such used bookstores and will never buy or read a used book. They watch too much Seinfeld. I love used bookstores, and especially this one.

19 thoughts on “My favorite (used)bookstore

  1. Here, here! I just purchased a copy of “Leaves of Grass” for $3 yesterday.

  2. Sounds just like one of my local favorites, except now due to the over growth of books there is only about 16 inches to walk down and the walkways at the end have been filled up to make them impassable. Their sign claims “Over 200,000 books”. I’m inclined to believe it.

  3. Ha! I bet I know this place. It is down in the Old Marketplace area in Omaha. If it is the store I am thinking of, I once bought my wife a copy of Bunyan’s works there which had been publish in the 1860s. And I know what you mean about the floor. I have never been in a bookstore where I have spent most of my time literally on my knees crawling around. And nobody thinks twice about this there. Wear old clothes.

    Still, my favorite used bookstore is Loome Theological Booksellers in Stillwater, Minnesota. It is supposedly the largest used theological bookstore in North America and a real treat to visit. It is located a few blocks off the main drag in an old Covenant Church building. Fabulous. Plan for several hours on your first visit.

  4. You should to Metro Detroit. John King books occupies an old stove factory with four floors. Eash floor is divided in sections and each section contains neatly arranged row after row after shelf after shelf of used and rare books.

    It is paradise on earth if you love books – especially really great books for a few dollars.

    If I could I would move next door to the store and spend all day everyday in it.

  5. Sounds like heaven. I’m jealous :)

    But we do have a huge Half-Price Books here in Dallas, so I’ll have to be content with that.

  6. I tried to leave a comment earlier but something happened to it. This place sounds just like a place near me. The aisle are only about 16 inches wide now due to all the stacked books in the floor and you can’t walk around the end of many aisles because of more books. Their sign claims “over 200,000” books. I’m almost inclined to believe it. Plus the fact that the lady that runs it has security cameras everywhere and sits in this small corner and watches your every move when you go in.

  7. Reminds me of a place in Asheville, NC and another one in Johnson City, TN. I don’t live near them anymore, but as I was reading your post, I could smell them. For lovers of old books, you know what I mean. For those of you who don’t–well, I’m sorry.

  8. Pastor Jim, I’m visiting Asheville next month. What’s the name of the Asheville bookstore, please?

  9. As soon as I hit “Submit” I realized that someone was going to ask that question so I’ve been frantically searching for a bookmark. I’ll find it for you.

  10. OK–didn’t find the bookmark, but thanks to Google streetview, I found it. It’s called The Reader’s Corner and it’s on Montford Ave off of I240. There is another good one downtown–maybe on Lexington or Broadway. It’s easy enough to spot. It’s a great town–have fun!

  11. Sounds like heaven compared to the orderly corporate stores we have in Dallas/Ft. Worth. There’s only one indi bookstore in a metropolitan area of 6 million people, and other than Half-Price Books, NO used bookstores. I think I may live in Dante’s 6th level of Hell.

  12. If this is the bookstore I think it is, I found two Walker Percy hardbound novels there. It’s great!

  13. what?! no name? and me moving back to nebraska in a few days…aren’t you going to give us a name?

  14. I was in Stillwater last week and visited this store. I had difficulty finding many Protestant books, they many specialize in Catholicism.

  15. From his description, it sounds like Jackson Street in the Old Market, in Omaha. The owner stops by my library every month or so to check out our book sale table to add to his shop’s collection.

  16. There are so many huge used book stores that I find useless. It’s hard to find a store that actually has decent books in theology and philosophy (I’ve been to the half-priced books in Dallas, it wasn’t great). If you’re ever in Orlando, check out Brightlight books, well worth it. Haslems in St. Pete is huge and has a decent selection, but if you’re in the St. Pete area, look for Wilson’s books. It’s a smaller store, but I like their selection much better.

  17. Ben, I would second your recommendation of Brightlight Books in Casselberry, on the northeast side of Orlando. They have the best selection of used Christian books I’ve found anywhere in Florida.

    I’ve been to Haslams a number of times, and have bought a number of books there over the years, but their prices have gone up considerably since I first shopped there.

    Thanks for the tip about Wilson’s. I’ll definitely check it out.

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