The ever devoted Mr. Oddbooks took me to a used book store on my birthday (my birthday was back during the summer, but you all know I run behind on things) and I didn’t have particularly high expectations. The store, Recycled Reads, is sort of a compromise store. You see, a few years back Austin still had Friends of the Library Sales, but some morally anal blowhards ruined it for everyone. One of the few benefits of being a volunteer on behalf of the library is that when the annual sales come around, you get to have first pick of the books. No one really abuses it and even if they did abuse the privilege, first pick means something different to everyone. My first pick sure ain’t gonna be someone else’s first pick.
It’s a small perk, a very small one when one considers the sheer hell of running the book sales for the library. All the screaming kids, all the assholes with scanners beeping up the place as they try to find stock for their online book stores, all the people asking for bulk discounts or special discounts, the mess and the dust. Yet someone made a fuss about some elderly women holding back a few books to buy after the sale and it resulted in such a mess that for a while, if I recall correctly, the Friends of the Library disbanded for a bit. They sure stopped the annual sales at Palmer Auditorium. Recycled Reads is what came after the annual sales ended. Not sure what the difference is since it is still volunteer-run but I guess now there are cameras to make sure no one there sets aside a completely trashed copy of some old school best-seller? No idea, but given my experiences with library sales, I expected Recycled Reads to be a complete shit hole filled with book sellers beeping up the joint, dust everywhere, and at least one kid with a smelly diaper toddling about.
But the store was much larger than the outside would lead one to believe. It was pretty well organized and nary a beeping shopper to be found. Clean, too.
The store was having some sort of steam punk thing going on.
I am not really that interested in steam punk, as a genre or as an aesthetic but some of the displays were visually interesting.
I was interested in buying this little piece of art but was stymied. The store was not authorized to sell these pieces and advised me to take a card and contact the artist. Funny but ultimately stupid story: I took the card next to the piece and contacted the artist. The man I contacted had no idea what I was talking about. He was a painter, not a maker of miniature vampire hunting kits. I went back and checked the picture I took of the section and sure enough his cards were placed right next to the little kit. But stuff gets moved around in this place, as other pics will show. A shame, really, but perhaps I should just try to make something like this myself.
The store was far better organized than a regular library sale. However, no matter how well-organized it may be, it’s hard to discuss a store like this because the inventory turns over every few days or so, even including the books that are not part of the library culls. The public donates books to this location – lots of books. I saw several people bring in boxes of books when I was there. Like, entire trunks of cars full of boxes sorts of drop-offs. While I was there, the fiction section was blah but I found a dozen or so history books that had to come home with me. Among them were a biography about Madame C. J. Walker, a book about a man who stalked Queen Victoria, a biography of Horatio Alger and a biography of Jennie Churchill.
Mr. Oddbooks also found a lot of books about naval history and doing stuff with boats. As a person who grew up then subsequently lived her life landlocked, I have no idea, but he seemed to like them.
The store also had a pretty good selection of sociology and cultural studies books but because everything in life invariably photographs terribly and is awfully staged when I am behind the camera, all you can really see is the misplaced copy of Jane Smiley’s Moo. I snagged a Cornell West title, One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race by Scott Malcolmsen, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin, Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society by Peter McWilliams, No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City by Katherine Williams, and The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs.
Mostly, it’s a brightly colored store with art and some seating, most of it less than comfortable. I have some more blurry pictures here if you are interested. But you really can’t ask for amazing seating in a place where the hardcovers are all $2 and the softcovers are $1. A friend of mine got a vintage and evidently very expensive collection of Mark Twain books for about $50 at Recycled Reads. I did not luck into anything like that but we did leave with 42 books for $90.
The hours are extremely limited. They are only open Thursday through Sunday, 12-6. But you know, cheap books and supporting the library system in Austin. So there’s that.
I didn’t really fall in love with this store but, again, the stock turns over so frequently that I could go there next Friday and think it is the best place ever. So checking it out if you are an Austinista or just visiting would be worth it if you land there on a day when they have stocked the sections relevant to your interests.