Bakersfield and the surrounding area is a bit of a literary desert. We have one Barnes and Noble. We have a handful of Christian “bookstores”, but most of their real estate is devoted to kitsch and I prefer places that also have a non-fiction section. Our only indie bookstore -which was really just a thinly-disguised Christian bookstore- shut its doors a few years back. Our only salvation is found in our used book stores.
Full disclosure: I’m a consummate thrift store fiend. My closet is full of vintage Brooks Brother and Ralph Lauren, tweed jackets and flannel wools that I’m sure had languished in storage for years. I love the hunt.
Used book stores usually fall into two categories: bulk and curated. Bulk stores, like our local Goodwill Books, often sell titles for around a dollar, but you’ll have to dig through boxes of James Patterson and Clive Cussler novels before you get to anything interesting. Curated establishments, like the amazing Phoenix Books in San Luis Obispo, are beautiful places to spend an afternoon. Organized, full of interesting and unique pieces, but picking up a dozen or so will come a bit more dear.
Then there’s Bookhounds. Prices are all between fifty cents and four bucks. Everything is organized by section, genre, and alphabetized by author’s name. It’s run by book lovers and generally staffed by earnest teenagers. I’ve found some pretty obscure and esoteric stuff there, alongside a regular stockpile of “mainstream” literary authors like Jonathan Franzen and Cormac McCarthy. They also have an amazing selection of reasonably priced LPs upstairs.