Friday, February 12, 2016

My Best Bookstores

My Best Bookstores



In this post, I'll list the five bookstores that I recommend as the best places to purchase used sf, fantasy, and horror paperbacks published during the interval from 1970 - 1990, as well as - if available - sf-themed graphic novels and art books. 

These all are places I've visited in the past 6 years, and the emphasis is on stores primarily in the Eastern USA, if only because I live in Central Virginia........

Needless to say, every one of these places is going to have a surfeit of paperbacks by Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Brunner, Andre Norton, etc. But they also have, for the careful searcher, some less prevalent titles.

With each store, I sum up the good and bad.

I also note whether or not if the store buys used books. Needless to say, you probably will not get the return you are expecting if you elect to sell your books for cash, and you usually are better off opting for 'Store Credit' for these exchanges.

McKays Books, Manassas, Virginia
8345 Sudley Rd., Manassas, VA 20109




McKay's Books is located in the Manaport Plaza Shopping Center, a nondescript shopping center in the 'Little San Salvador' section of Manassass.

[Take care where and how you park - 90% of the other drivers in this part of Manassas not only don't speak fluent English, but they also don't have Car Insurance......]

The good: a very large selection, among the largest of all the stores reviewed here, including a healthy selection of older paperbacks. There also are separate aisles for fantasy and horror, with large selections as well. Paperback books are usually in the $3 - $5 range. 

There is a large selection of graphic novels and art books, but these are priced rather high. 

McKays will buy books from you.

The bad: the books have a large, very very sticky price sticker on their front cover. If you succeed in peeling it off, the residue left on the cover of the book will adhere to anything it comes into contact with - if you lay another book atop it, there will be consequences......




Wonder Book and Video, Frederick, Maryland
1306 West Patrick St., Frederick, MD 21703



Wonder Book and Video is a three-store chain in Maryland; there are stores in Hagerstown, Frederick, and Gaithersburg. The latter is tucked away in the obscure back parking area of a shopping plaza, and is hard to find - I recommend that if you go, you print out a map beforehand, and be careful about over-relying on your GPS. 

I frequently go to the Wonder Books in Frederick, which is located right off of Route 40 in a nondescript shopping plaza. There is plenty of parking.

The Frederick store has a lengthy section of shelving devoted to sf paperbacks (fantasy titles are lumped in with the sf), and this is one of the best places to find gems from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Prices for these paperbacks are in the $3 - $5 range but expect some of the rarer titles to be $6 or higher.

The opposite side of the sf paperbacks aisle has a large selection of hardcover sf and fantasy books, as well as a decent selection of sf and fantasy art books.

Wonder Book and Video also has a large section devoted to horror paperbacks, again, with a lot of 70s and 80s titles represented. The stores also carry a lot of overstock graphic novels.

At the Frederick store, particularly rare or otherwise valuable paperbacks, priced in the $10 and up range, are kept apart from the others and stored in a locked glass-fronted bookcase within view of the front counter. You'll need to ask the staff to open the case for you.

Wonder Book and Video will buy used books.

Wonder Book and Video has an online store, and its shipping charges are reasonable, making it a viable alternate if you can't travel to the retail stores.

Utah Book and Magazine, Salt Lake City, Utah
327 S. Main St. Salt Lake City, UT 84111



This bookstore is so unique that I did an entire post devoted to it. Whether or not you will witness something amusing, Utah Book and Magazine has a great selection of older sf, fantasy, and horror paperbacks amid its cramped and crowded shelves. There is also a healthy supply of sf-related memorabilia, as Jordan H at Yelp! observed:

Being a science fiction nerd, I was particularly impressed with the store's selection of Star Trek novels. They have a MASSIVE bookshelf filled with more Star Trek works than I have ever seen in my life. I ended up picking up a set of blueprints of the interior of the Starship Enterprise for $15 as well as a Star Trek: Next Generation board game for $10. There's also a much smaller, but equally enjoyable, Star Wars section where I was able to find The Empire Strikes Back score on vinyl for $5 as well as the first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye for $3. MAJOR SCORE!

The good: prices are very cheap...... $1 to $4 per book. 

There is an entire section of the store set aside to vintage nudie and softcore books, magazines, and memorabilia.

The bad: a lot of the books are only in 'acceptable' to 'good' condition. Expect 'very good' and 'like new' conditions to be rare.

Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore
2864 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55407




Uncle Hugo's shares a building with Uncle Edgar's, a mystery bookstore. Chicago Ave S. is a main drag in Minneapolis, so you may have to find parking a block or two away from the store.

Uncle Hugo's has a large selection of used sf paperbacks in its cramped interior; I found myself having to step with extreme, ankle-twisting care around the shelving, as books are stacked on the floor.....and on the top of the shelves, where you will need steady nerves to select and remove that one book you are interested in, from the two-foot-high stack.


Uncle Hugo's also has a large section for new sf books, including hardbacks and small press.

The bad: when I went on a warm afternoon in early October, the store was stifling - dress to sweat, if the weather calls for higher temps.

Half Price Books
10201 University Ave, Clive, IA 50325



When I lived in Iowa, I routinely drove from my home in Ames to this Half Price Books location in the Westridge Shopping Center in Clive, a suburb of Des Moines. I also went to the Half Price store in Marion / Cedar Rapids. 

According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, Half Price Books has 126 stores in 16 states. 


The sf paperback sections in the Half Price stores I went to in Clive and Cedar Rapids were small compared to those of the other stores I review here, and were primarily comprised of newer titles. Nonetheless, with a bit of searching, you may find some books from the 70s and 80s. Book prices were in the $2 - $4 range. 

Separate from the paperback shelving, there is considerable shelf space for sf hardbacks.

Separate from the sf aisles, each of these stores had a free-standing spinner rack filled with older, higher-priced paperbacks in plastic pouches. These are priced in the $5 and up range and contain a variety of older titles in different genres. You can find some real gems here, for example, like Bantam's Doc Savage novels from the 60s and 70s..

These outlets do have some space devoted to graphic novels and art books; prices for these are rather high. 

Half Price will buy your used books.

So there you have it. Good luck with your scores.......!

6 comments:

MPorcius said...

Great post! I've been to Uncle Hugo's once, and, as you describe, visiting is an adventure. I've been to the Clive Half Price Books many times, and purchased tons of books there. I'm having good luck at the Half Price Books locations here in the Columbus, OH area.

Marty McKee said...

Believe it or not, I've been to the first three stores on your list. Damn, I hate those stupid McKay stickers too, but there's no beating those prices. Have you been to the warehouse in Rockville, Maryland? I think it's Wonder Books too.

Edo Bosnar said...

Hard-to-remove stickers on books are the bane of my existence. I remove them compulsively, and even go so far as to use nail polish remover to remove the sticky residue (although, alarmingly, this can also remove some of the paint from covers on older paperbacks). Booksellers of all retailers should know not to damage their product like that...

Anonymous said...

I've found that Bestine (also known as Rubber Cement thinner) works the best for removing stickers from books. Been using it for years and never had it damage a book cover yet (although there's always a first time for anything).

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Mike C. said...

I make a living buying and reselling vintage paperbacks, and have to remove stickers without damaging the underlying covers. Some stickers, like the ones used at local Goodwill stores, seem to use an adhesive that is equal parts barnacle shellac and Gorilla Glue, and if you try to pick or peel the label up, you can damage the cover or even tear a piece of it off.

For you book collectors and book lovers, here is what works very well for paperbacks (don't use this on hardbacks with a highly glossy plastic laminate cover or a matte-paper dust jacket, there are other techniques for that.)

Heat the label - a hairdryer set on the highest setting will work, although a heat gun on the lowest setting worls best. I use about a 10 to 25 second count with a heat gun (the longer the label has been on, the longer it will take to melt the underlying adhesive) to avoid scorching the cover. Practice this with a couple of books you don't care about to get the technique down.

You can sometimes now gently lift the label off by picking at it with your fingernail, but it is better to use a plastic "Scotty Peeler", available from numerous sellers on Amazon pretty cheaply. Use the thin edge of the peeler to gently work and lift the now-loosened label up without scratching up the cover.

Once the label is removed, use "Goo-Gone" (available at most hardware and home improvement stores) and schpritz a couple of drops on any sticky residue that is left. Then gently rub the sticky residue with a soft cloth, like a piece of old t-shirt. It joust takes a few seconds to dissolve the remaining residue. Goo-Gone is oil/paraffin based, so it will not stain or discolor printed cardboard covers. In fact, if you rub the Goo-Gone over an old cover, it restores the original luster somewhat.

If you use the preferred technique above, you won't even be able to tell there was a label on the book.

Hope this is helpful - I always enjoy reading PorPor!