The luminous Mrs. V. and I just finished a whirlwind road tour of the Deep South (NY to St. Augustine to New Orleans to Vicksburg to Charleston to back home). The last thing we did before beginning what was supposed to be a ten hour plus drive straight through to Staten Island from Charleston, we stopped at Mr. K's Used Books. Wow, I didn't think places like this existed.
Here in NYC, even the paperback book traders are pretty much all gone. Skyrocketing rents and the competition from online sellers and e-books did them in. And, truth be told, most of them aren't too much of a loss. The really good used books stores were far off in Providence and distant parts of New Jersey. Anyone who ever tells you how great the Strand is isn't a person who buys genre books. The store's selection is pretty poor.
Mr. K's is a bookstore dream come true. Its selection in every genre is large and fairly comprehensive. While newer books tend to predominate, each section (especially mysteries) has a decent selection of older books. And the prices are great. Norton Critical Editions (books I pick up used whenever I come across decent copies) sell for $6 and under, a very good price. The prices I saw on mass market editions ranged from as little as $1.50 to $5 for rarer paperback originals. Hardcovers looked to priced the same way.
And, as the title implies, they don't only sell used books. They have a huge selection of CDs, and DVDs. The place is huge to the point of being overwhelming, which is great.
And despite all my praise, I only made a few purchases (while Mrs. V. picked up a stack of decorating and art books, and mysteries). But what purchases they were. And I only found one of them, my wife found the others.
The last thing I got was on a whim. I was skimming the Political Thriller section when the Len Deighton books caught my eye. I've only read a couple of his books (the searing Bomber and the Hitler-Wins-thriller SS-GB), but I've always meant to read The Ipcress File. And now I've got a nice copy for under two bucks. Even if it stinks, who cares?
And that's what I most loved about the old days roaming around used book stores. Of course I wanted to find that perfect (and underpriced) copy of a Ballantine Adult Fantasy book, but it was taking a chance on something completely new. That's a lot harder now and I'm probably never going to spend money on a brand new book without a real serious recommendation from someone I really trust. In the past, I could go to the Book Pit in Red Bank, NJ, and fill up a shopping bag of horror books with cool covers, mysteries that looked nicely off-kilter, and all sorts of classic sci-fi I had never gotten around to reading.
So, if you have the chance, check out Mr. K's. They also have several other locations: Greenville, SC, Asheville, NC, and Johnson City and Oak Ridge, TN. If you get the chance, definitely stop in.