The Pleasure of the Book Hunt

8_bookstoreI don’t do adrenaline.  I don’t ski, bungy-jump, or ride roller-coasters.  I most certainly do not hunt.  Instead, I do used bookstores.

I know, I know.  They’re about as similar as monkeys and beans, and yet that is probably the closest I get to deliberately seeking out excitement.  Allow me to explain.

I’m a bookstore junkie. I am physically incapable of walking past a potential book depository without going in to see what they have. And I’m not just talking regular bookstores and libraries and UBS.  I’m also talking Salvation Army, Goodwill, vintage stores, discount stores, garage sales –anything.  I like books, but even more, I like good deals.  I’ve been known to Google UBS, map them, then visit them systematically one by one.  If I happen to be travelling this not only gets me books, it also gives me a non-tourist’s view of the city.

On my recent holiday I went on a road trip.  Besides the hiking and the seafood I stopped at every town on the way that would conceivably have used books.  This broke up the drive and got me some great finds: Deborah Simmons’ (a 2-for-1, actually); an old Susan Sizemore historical I’d never heard of published by a very defunct division of HarperCollins; an out-of-print copy of The Lion’s Daughter by Loretta Chase; and an old Iris Bromige which the proprietor gave to me for free  (because I’m sure no one else wanted it).  Sure, I could find them elsewhere.  Sure, I might even buy them new.   But that’s not the point.  The point is delayed gratification, rewarded.

And if I’m honest, that’s a big part of the reason I go to UBS.  I don’t mind being disappointed – I’m never worse off than before.  But I love the anticipation of stepping into a world of uncertainty; I love the possibility that underneath yet another copy of Dune is a Carla Kelly Signet Regency or even Laura London’s The Windflower. It’s about exploration and getting your hands dirty, and frequently coming away empty-handed; it’s also about saving money, encountering new books, and meeting new people.  When I think of it that way, it’s absolutely irrelevant that I could buy anything on the internet.  With a few clicks my curiosity could be satisfied forever – but where’s the fun in that?

Do you torture yourself like I do, or are you far less obsessive in your UBS hunts?  Do you believe in delayed gratification, and do you think it’s worth it?

- Jean AAR

27 thoughts on “The Pleasure of the Book Hunt

  1. I am with you on this one Jean. Absolutely love UBS. There is a particular store in Newport News, Va that I simply adore. This is a trade-in bookshop. It is a book junkies dream and the lady employees are very helpful on genre and have an opinion on the good and bad reads. I have learned to trust their their opinions as I do with AAR.
    I also go to garage sales, the GoodwillSalvation Army, etc.
    It certainly is easier on the pocketbook and puts a big smile to the face on the finds.
    Thanks for the topic to discuss!

  2. Sign me up for your next expedition. We used to have 2 UBS in my town but both, sadly, have closed. But there’s still Salvation Army and Goodwill and yard sales. Just this month I found a copy of Jo Beverley’s An Unwilling Bride with the original Zebra cover picture of Lucien and Beth on it for 10 cents. It didn’t matter that I already owned a copy of the reissue, with not nearly as good a cover, I had to have this. The bargain and the thrill of the discovery was worth the trouble to seek ti out. Half the fun is never knowing what you’ll find until you find it.

  3. LOL I know exactly what you are talking about, I built up a business out of the thrill of the chase.
    It is a borderline illness for me, I go on a road trip and return with a boot load of books and of course several enviro bags full on the back seat. *blush*

  4. I am a great fan of delayed gratification. I come out empty-handed quite often, but I visit Goodwill stores in several towns monthly because it is just so rewarding to find an out of print treasure. I also try not to miss a library sale because that’s where I find easier to read hardcover editions for myself and my mother. There is a reasonably priced UBS in my town, but I’ve noticed recently that they are selling the books people are searching for online. I know they have to make money to stay in business, but I really miss finding an out of print book I’ve been hunting for. I have ordered books online, but find the condition isn’t always as listed.

    Now that my TBR shelves are quite full, I’m trying to be more selective, but one must support new authors by buying new releases, especially those working with small publishing companies, and buy brand new editions from favorite authors.

  5. I once got a box of 111 Regency romances for $25 at a flea market!!!

    I love UBSs, the Goodwill, garage sales – oooh, how I love a yard sale with books – and best of all, church rummage sales!!!

  6. Oh, yes, absolutely! The thought of finding a copy of one of my favorite books of all time, The Windflower, in a pile of books at a sale of any sort leaves me giddy. I love everything about old bookstores and old books. I sometimes come across a real gem by an author I’ve never read before and I’ve found several new favorites that way. As an author contemplating giving up writing and just becoming a reader again, it’s comforting to know that there will always be the pleasure of the hunt for old favorites!

  7. I share your obsession! I love going to the local ubs, Goodwill and the library sale. At Goodwill last year I found a copy of Get Lucky by Suzanne Brockmann- the one with the bad cover and Frisco’s kid and some of the others in the series. I always wonder why the books ended up there. In addition to just a random find, I’m on the hunt for some classics like Jane Eyre and Persuasion.

  8. I just found a copy of “Theif of Dreams” by Mary Balogh at a Friends of Library sale for 50 cents. I was very pleased.

  9. I went to a USB today! I have my Excel list of books that are no longer in print which I have not yet read. I keep the list in my purse and as I find each one, I mark it off. I absolutely HATE HATE HATE to shop…except when it comes to books. I could spend all day sitting on the floor thumbing through books and watching my pile grow.

  10. I’ve got my list too, highly organized and ranked. Some books I’d kill to find: Anything by Sharon & Tom Curtis, super old Anne Stuarts, Nonnie St. George, Sheri Cobb Smith, Elizabeth Elliott’s “The Scoundrel”, and Mary B/Carla K Signet Regencies.

    I’ve noticed, too, that some UBS have newer and newer books; finds that aren’t as thrilling, in a way. Ah well. Books get depleted, it’s normal.

    Do you have book exchanges in the US? It’s something the NZers have, a UBS that allows you to run up an account, and pay a lower price for books if you’ve been bringing in books.

    • Jean Wan: Do you have book exchanges in the US? It’s something the NZers have, a UBS that allows you to run up an account, and pay a lower price for books if you’ve been bringing in books.

      The USB I frequent the most has a trade-in policy. They give you 25% of retail price on account. They price their books at 50% of retail. So if it is a really old book, you can get it for less than $2.00. They do not make any allowances for hard to find/out of print books. I have found books there that were selling on amazon for $20-30.00.

  11. Absolutely agree! There’s nothing like the thrill of coming upon a treasure. Unfortunately, my house is so crammed full of books already, the last thing I should be doing is bringing home more–but I will, anyway.

  12. All of you are sisters of my heart. I too insist on going to UBS, charity shops, yard sales, wherever books may be found. My husband is very patient with me on this, and I’ve found some lovely books that have given me hours of pleasure for very little money. Much less expensive than jewelry or cars and, in the end, often more fun.

  13. My favorite way to spend a Saturday….going to UBS’s and out to dinner. Heaven. I am lucky…we have some oustanding used book stores in Minneapolis and Uptown MPLS. Some of the stores have warped wood floors, dusty smelling and books shelved to the ceiling…sort of hit-or-miss, but I have found some treasures. Most of my older Baloghs have come from those stores and my Judy Cuevas books…Bliss and Dance. Piles more outside the romance genre. I can’t tell you how much I love it! And then I wonder why…I have so many books. Oh well, it’s fun.

  14. I have compared it to a gambling addiction – the utter thrill of occasionaly winning –it, finding something great or a book you really wanted — is so addictive. I find new bookstores quite dull in comparison.

  15. I found “The Copeland Bride”, the book Susan Elizabeth Phillips wrote before she was Susan Elizabeth Phillips at our local Salvation Army. What a thrill!

  16. I feel my story is illustrative of my consuming passion to a) find long OOP books and b) to share said books with the world … I am nothing if not persistent and I have trained my dh, when we’re on a trip, to check in with his office while I search for the elusive missing Regency. Once, when we were staying at the Prospect Hill Plantation Hill near Charlottesville, Virginia, I literally went dumpster diving in the huge bins outside the Sally Ann. Yes it was worthwhile: of course it was! What I usually do with the double copies? Share them with unsuspecting victims to get them well and HOOKED! :D

  17. Jean, we are all in the same club! I would also check out all the secondhand bookstores in the vicinity when I’m on a trip. There’s nothing like finding a book you did not expect for half-price or less in a little shadowy nook. I also prefer it if the secondhand bookstores have classical music in the background (most of the ones I have been in seem to). However, I tend to buy a lot of secondhand hardcover cookbooks. Maybe it’s because I get many of my books for reading from BookMooch nowadays. And yes, I too have a huge TBR pile of secondhand books.

  18. LOL – this my favorite thing to do! Almost an obsession. I am so glad I am not the only one with an Excel spreadsheet tucked inside my handbag at all times – you just never know what you will find. It’s like the thrill of the hunt, much more enjoyable to me than browsing in a Borders or B&N. There are several thrift stores in my area and library sales are always fun, too. One time found original editions in pristine condition of almost all of Linda Howards early works (I think there were 18 books, including the MacKenzies) for 25 cents each.

  19. What a delight to see so many who share this obsession! I absolutely hate to go shopping, but I can spend hours in a UBS or at our local flea market where there are 5 UB vendors I visit regularly looking for treasures and great buys. They all know me as the lady with the lists. I carry with me a notebook of books I have to cut done on unintended duplicates and several “wish lists”. My husband, too, is very patient. I may never get to read all the books I’ve collected, but the thrill of the hunt keeps me heading out again. Tomorrow’s Saturday and I’ll be out hunting again. Yippie!

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