On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
BACK WHEN TRAVEL was important to my life, secondhand bookshops were important to my travel. The search was as entertaining as the acquisition, and the surprises could be terrific. Here’s a sample of secondhand bookshops I’ve loved, together with Internet sleuthing as to their current pandemic-influenced statuses.
Bookman, Orange, California. My local, as it were, used to be on Tustin Avenue. However, after 29 years at that location, in 2018 it moved to 320 Katella Avenue, Orange, about 4 1/2 miles due east of Disneyland.
I found a goodly number of books on aviation there, as well as others of its wide stock. Bookman is open these days, masks all around. There’s also ebookman.com.
The Book Loft, Solvang, California. Solvang, 128 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is just off the 101, an oft-traveled path of mine to Monterey Historics and the like. Solvang recreates a Danish village, touristy but also home to a fine bookshop and tasty pastries nearby.
The Book Loft has new books downstairs, secondhand upstairs, and also a Hans Christian Andersen Museum (this exceptional collection of memorabilia, currently pandemically closed). I recall many upstairs Book Loft finds on travel, art, and language. Downstairs, I’ve even bought new books. Imagine that, new!
John K. King Books, Detroit, Michigan. The Motor City was a frequent destination for me, and a visit to John K. King Used & Rare Books was de rigueur.
I always got good exercise at John K. King’s, because many categories of my interest were shelved on its third floor. I recall real finds in automotive, aviation, and other transportation topics. Its website notes that “Masks are required; if you have symptoms please delay your visit and contact us with your request.”
Cecil Court, London. Cecil Court is off Charing Cross Road, a couple blocks north of Trafalgar Square. Back when I used to visit, it was the home of bookshops specializing in automobiles, aviation, and theater (three frequent topics here at SimanaitisSays).
A Google Map visit today shows lots of renovation work, but still interesting destinations. There’s likely great Indian food to be had nearby as well.
By the way, Wife Dottie and I recently enjoyed the 1987 movie 84 Charing Cross Road, a warm, gentle celebration of bookshop correspondence.
Kanda-Jimbocho, Tokyo. Truly Tokyo calls it Jimbocho Book Town, and for good reason: “Within a 15-minutes walking radius of Jimbocho Station, you’ll find around 200 bookstores crammed floor to ceiling….”
Jimbocho Station is just north of the Imperial Palace grounds, a straightforward subway ride from my favorite Tokyo digs, the Imperial Hotel. I visited Jimbocho Book Town in search of old Japanese aviation books: “すみません、古い航空本はありますか？Sumimasen, furui kōkū hon wa arimasu ka? Pardon me, do you have old aviation books?”
Not infrequently, the bookseller would reply, in English, “Sorry, sir, this is a shop specializing in Samurai heraldry” or some such.
I had some successes, though. One book shows the Farman III biplane that inaugurated flight in Japan in 1910; another, a Blériot Type XI that found its way to Japan not long afterward. Jimbocho was also the source of several JTB (Japan Travel Bureau) guidebooks from different eras.
And snacking nearby was always a serendipitous treat.
Les Bouquinistes, Paris. Booksellers (“bouquinistes”) along the Seine were great for language guides. I suspect my French/Greek dictionary was one such find. Another was my mint copy of Tintin’s Spécial Auto 48 Pages.
By the way, Mark Pryor’s first Hugo Marston mystery is titled The Bookseller. I didn’t travel anywhere to acquire this Parisian bouquiniste adventure. It was a gift from a dear friend—and new yet! ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021
We used to have a pretty good used book store in Folsom, tucked into a strip mall next to Big 5 Sporting Goods (finding a parking space in front was sometimes a contact sport). Unfortunately, shortly before the Covid thing erupted, the long-time owners were unable to find somebody to sell the business to (when they retired) and closed, taking the last local bookstore of any kind with them. Nearest bookstore is now a 1.5-hour light rail trip or 45-minute (off-peak, including parking adventures) drive to downtown Sacramento. Assuming even that place is still open. It’s Amazon or Target (or Walmart if you like “romance” novels) now. Have re-learned how to use the public library, including on-line access to interlibrary loans.
Did you ever make it to the Nishiyama Bookstore in Ikebukuro, near Tokyo – Ebisu station? It’s unfortunately closed now, but, wow what a store. Mostly automobile/racing and aviation books stacked to the ceiling. No bargains to be had anywhere in the place, but I lost count of the hours I spent in the place.
Sounds great! I recall visiting an aquarium high up in an Ikebukuro skyscraper. But never a bookstore. Maybe some day….
I somewhat miss going through used book stores, spending quiet time in the stacks and finding interesting tomes to buy and take home .
Now I buy most of my books used online from Amazon, not quite the same but *much* faster and often cheaper too, many Goodwill stores across America have begin cataloging and selling off the books few seemed to want previously .
I went to John K. King books and I must say it is really amazing. Spent less than 40 dollars in 4 good books, cars and aviation, as usual with me. Thanks for the valuable hint Dennis!
Thank you, Valter. It’s good to hear John King’s is still flourishing. I remember it fondly.