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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Best Bookstore in Phoenix

I can’t keep the secret anymore.
Usually I hold the information about where I buy my books very close. You won’t be able to pry from me the locations of my favorite thrift stores or second-hand sales. They are sources that I guard like Woodward guarded Deep Throat.
But finally the guilt has become too much, and I want to shed my miserly ways. So I’m going to make up for it by giving away my crown jewel; I’m going to tell you what I believe is the best used bookstore in Phoenix, AZ. Now listen to me carefully, because you may not believe it at first: The best used bookstore in the Valley of the Sun is in the Arizona State University Textbook store on the Tempe Campus.
Go inside those big glass doors. Ignore the foam fingers, ballcaps, and mascot shot glasses. Go to your right. On the wall you will see six book bays (with three facing shelf units) with signs quietly announcing the the used book section. You won't need any help finding the good stuff. Good stuff like: T.C. Boyle’s Stories (for $8.95!), Echo Maker by Richard Powers ($7.95), Richard Ford’s short story collection Multitude of Sin ($6.95), which is also the price of Alice Munro’s View From Castle Rock. Now I know you’re thinking those prices are pretty typical for used quality paperbacks, but each of the above quotes refers to a good quality hardback copy that has been lovingly wrapped in Brodart. The paperback prices are so cheap I’m not even going to mention them for fear I won’t see any the next time I go.
Long-time resident bibiophiles might recognize here the handiwork of Scott Krause, the former proprietor of Reid’s, a small bookstore on Apache Blvd in Tempe that from ’96-’99 carried more bang per board foot than anywhere else. It was a sad thing when Reid's closed, and to see Scott’s discerning eye at work again quickens a book lover’s heart.
Though he still refers to it as a ‘side-project’, the title depth is awesome, the books are cheaper than cheap, and (and this is the real Scott Krause hallmark) their condition is excellent. If you want a copy to own, a copy to sit on your shelves and be enjoyed multiple times, this is the place to find it. The section relies on its own merits to produce sales, with no one hand selling the tomes. But Krause sees that as an advantage. “People should be rewarded for browsing,” he says. I couldn’t agree more.
So stop by. Now is the perfect time since most of the student body is away and the shelves are heavy with literary fruit waiting to be picked. Everything but that $7.95 hardback copy of Ann Beattie’s Park City. That’s one thing I’m not sharing.
The ASU bookstore (which is independent and not part of a textbook chain) is at the ASU Tempe Campus on Orange Mall between the Computing Commons and Physical Education building. Parking is free along Apache Boulevard. For an interactive map of the campus, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's so true. I was looking for a copy of Greene's The End of the Affair to give to a friend before he left town (couldn't wait for shipping). I couldn't find one anywhere. And as I was still cursing Tempe's dearth of culture (there's probably not a copy of Hamlet to be bought in the whole city!) I wandered into the ASU bookstore and found Greene's oeuvre; used, but in good condition and for ridiculous prices. Faith restored!