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In Praise Of Used Book Stores


Regardless of the city or town I'm in, one of my favorite destinations is the local used book store. While often perceived as simply a place for the budget conscious to find cheap books, I've noticed that there appears to be a subculture of people who frequent them. More than bargain hunters, a good many patrons are seeking the rare, the unusual, the out-of-print. I am one of those people. In the early 1990s, I found myself perusing the aisles of a used book store in Chattanooga, looking for nothing in particular, altho I'd developed an interest in signed books. In the poetry section, I noticed a small, nondescript paperback. Looking inside, I found the author had inscribed a note and signature to whom I must assume was the original purchaser. The book went home with me that evening, becoming the first of my collection of signed books and the start of a pursuit that interests me to this day.


While Chattanooga, TN is home to the largest used book store I've seen (and visit regularly), I greatly admire stores of a smaller scale, most often staffed by a lone clerk who is quite often reading between purchases. You've probably encountered the type: a polite greeting upon entry, with "let me know if I can help you" added for the sake of politeness before returning to their own reading. To me, this is perfect, for if I need help, I'll ask, otherwise leave me free to explore. The epitome of such a place and person is a small book store in Beaufort, South Carolina, where my wife purchased a signed copy of the late Pat Conroy's "The Prince Of Tides."

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