Thursday, January 14, 2010

Michael's Books: One of a Kind Rare Books Room

In what I would like to believe is some sort of happy non-competitive agreement, Henderson Books is usually closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and Michael's Books is open. So these are generally the days where I head across the street to Michael's.

When I first arrived to town, I saw Michael's as the gangly younger sister to Henderson's - trying hard, but always a little awkward, caught in the shadow of the other's brilliance. But I have come to see that this is not true.

Michael's may not immediately impress you with spined-out, stacks of books on the floor, maximum density book-lover beauty. But don't let that prejudice you: things are spread out a bit more here. You have to look around. It's a beautiful maze: rooms in back of rooms. In this way the place reminds me of Larry McMurtry's Blue Pig (now known as Booked Up) in Archer City, Texas.

Their selection seems to be geared more to the common reader - more best sellers, past and present.  Not as erudite as Henderson's. If you think Henderson is snobby or a little stuffy at times, then head on over to Michael's. They probably will have you covered. Still, in that way that all good bookstores do, they will surprise you. Example: I was perusing the Greek History section the other day and found a beautiful Zone Book, The Invention of Athens: The Funeral Oration in the Classical City by Nicole Loraux. In the case right next to it: several volumes of Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vol. I: The Structure of Everyday Life (Civilization and Capitalism : 15th-18th Century). Very nice. All reasonably priced.

I was just recently made aware of their excellent Rare Books Room - just behind the counter to the right - with a fine selection of firsts and a truly outstanding collection of local history books. Also, be sure to look in the glass counter in front for a nice collection of the Beats and a selection of weird and transgressive literature. If are low on cash, Michael's always places several boxes of free books out on the sidewalks. And, to top it off, they always have free cider.

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