Perhaps one of the little known secrets about book shops is that some of the best, and I mean very best book shops are not to be found in the big cities...but out in the countryside. Now, I know there will be some folks that will say, "but the Strand is the best!" Okay, NYC book shops can be behemoth in size, but places like the Strand (which I like), are often way over priced. The point of going to book shops, especially "used" book shops or any other second-hand store that sells books is that you can find great deals. If you don't want deals or the joy of the book hunt, well, then go to Amazon, aLibris, or your local Walmart. But if you are up for some bibliographic fun, and are simply entertained by the peregrination factor involved in searching for bookish places, then the country book shop is for you.
The added element of these country book shops is that they all have their unique flavor--their shops have some sort of curiosity, flare, and personality. From the proprietor and/or owner, to the cats perched up on window sills, or Labradors curled into wintery warm fur pillows on knitted rugs. I'm also a fan of book shops, which have couches and lounge chairs--as long as they're not covered with dust mites or bed bugs or too much cat hair! But back to more pleasant topics: these local book shops can be great, and pleasant finds. A few months back I was driving through Cobleskill, NY...on my way to Brooks BBQ in Oneonta--which if you haven't tried it, you must! But back in Cobleskill, there is an old book shop that I just adore, called Catnap Books, on 574 Main Street. I've been going there for years, and have found some excellent books there at very good prices.
This time through, I discovered a new place called Mary Jane Books, which apparently has other "branches," even though it's a used book shop. (I should say that there are some other notable examples, such as Powell's Books in Chicago, which is a used shop--and probably my all time favorite book shop--but has several branches). Mary Jane Books may not have the variety or even gravitas of Catnap, but it is a fun little place, and is located at 509 W. Main Street, just down the street. I think, as I have been visiting and reviewing the book shop culture for some time now, that these shops do best where there are colleges and universities--for obvious reasons. And I think that anyone interested in this sort of business would be wise to start up such an enterprise in just such an area.
The Cobleskill branch is small, and is located in a space, which looked to be above a garage...in what felt like an attic! But there was plenty of parking and the interior was pleasant and inviting for readers. And there was ample light (natural and otherwise) for sitting and going through a few volumes. There were some deals to be had here, for sure. So if you're in the Cobleskill area, stop off and visit these great little book shops.