November 22nd, 2011
Listomania: Buy the Book
They’re all over town: broken and tortured ruins of corporate book cathedrals. Thousands of years from now, archaeologists will unearth the signs, decode the hieroglyphic “Borders” and declare that these massive structures were some sort of archaic manuscript warehouses, eventually driven to obsolescence during the height of the Amazonian Era. But in the meantime, we’re stuck with these echoing caverns looming down on us, reminding us all that paper is so ten years ago.
Faced with the burning question “where are we supposed to buy books now?” Houstonians are tense, but hardly without options. There’s no need to resort to Barnes & Noble just yet; the situation is not quite that desperate. It’s time to check out Houston’s indie bookstores, and discover why we probably should have been book buying independent all along.
¼ Price Books
Consistently ranked as Houstonian bibliophiles’ favorite house of worship, Quarter Price Books is the type of place where you can walk out with a $4 paperback or a $400 rare printing. This store employs the “pile all the books that won’t fit on the shelves in the middle of the aisles” catalog method, making it as much a true treasure hunt as it is a fire hazard. If you’re looking for something specific, don’t even try and hunt it down yourself. Ask the polite gent behind the desk and he’ll point you in the right direction, offer hearty recommendations, and likely ask to hear your life story.
Murder By the Book
For the dark and stormy night lover in all of us, Murder By the Book is a fearlessly targeted bookstore, aiming directly for those of us who know that the butler did, indeed, do it. With the most cram packed book signing calendar in town and even mystery author luncheon events, this store will continue to flourish until the last Little Indian is standing… oh come on, Agatha Christie reference? Anyone? Moving on…
Someday, we’ll all be rich enough to live in the Woodland Heights. Til then, we’ll content ourselves with speeding through its meticulously groomed streets, dodging the golden retrievers or the golden-haired offspring of its fortuitous citizens and parking illegally out in front of their enviable indie bookstore. Kaboom Books is a perfect reflection of the neighborhood that faithfully supports it. A little old, a little new, a sprinkling of featured locals, and just the right amount of self-importance.
More art space than bookstore, Domy Books defies tradition in a way that only a shop on Lower Westheimer can. How is it possible for such a deliberately offbeat store to stay open? What’s that? It’s on the same block as Poison Girl and Agora and Taxi Taxi? Ah. That explains a lot.
Since 1974, Brazos Bookstore has been that really popular guy from high school. You remember the one that played football, made the honor roll, starred in the school plays and tutored underprivileged orphan kids? The one that you really wanted to hate or envy, but just couldn’t, somehow? That’s Brazos Bookstore. Successful because they deserve to be, with an unbelievably educated staff and one of the best rare book selections in the city. On last glance, they had a first edition of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”… hint, hint.
With educational books, beautiful hand bound diaries, soaps and lotions, jewelry and even magic wands, this shop isn’t looking to scare away their non-pagan patrons. Wide-eyed wanderers and advanced pagan practitioners are all equally welcome to come in, look around, stay a spell. (nyuck, nyuck). May we recommend the ‘Port-A-Witch’ kit? With candle holders, an itty bitty wand and a double blade dagger nestled in a box that doubles as a travel alter, it’s the essential solution for the witch-on-the-go in your life. Warning: presenting said kits as gifts to in-laws or employers, while hilarious, may prove hazardous to your health.
River Oaks Bookstore
Don’t let the big R.O. in the name scare you off; this is not a shop full of nothing but hostess etiquette manuals and interior design magazines. In fact, it’s one of the most unpretentious indie bookstores around, with a “whatever” looking storefront and a book selection entirely hand picked by the staff. Seriously, look at their website. How perfectly un-River Oaksy can you get?
The Jung Center
Who doesn’t want to know more about Jung’s Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious? ‘Understanding Psychological Projection?’ ‘Psyche and the Sacred?’ The Jung Center is a gold mine of literature and classes for those of us who are trying to sound smarter than we actually are. Hang around long enough, and you might even leave able to say “anima” or “animus” without giggling.
Blue Willow Bookshop
Ignore the bestsellers and book club picks, pass right by the Martha Stewart shrine, and head for the kids section. Plop down in the middle of the aisle Indian-style and pour over ‘The Stinky Cheese Man,’ ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,’ and your favorite issue of ‘The Berenstain Bears.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’ve got a huge selection of educational children’s books, but just stick to the picture books, have a juice box, and remember what it felt like to slip those folded letters in and out of the envelope pages of “The Jolly Postman.”
The Menil Collection
Your coffee table will thank you. Throw out the stack of outdated ‘Travel and Leisure’ issues and never – I mean never – toss another copy of US weekly down between the remotes and the dusty fake flower arrangement. The Menil Collection bookstore and its colorful slew of art books helps us replace pop-culture with true culture.
Bedrock City Comic Company
Comic books were once reserved for nerdy connoisseurs and make-believers. Now the mainstream has a hold of them and every other movie that’s released is based on a Marvel, DC or graphic novel creation. Most of us missed the ground floor of the trend, but there’s one great place to jump on the bandwagon at Bedrock City Comic Company. Along the evolving stretch of Washington Avenue, you’ll find a vast selection classic comics for collectors, and reproductions and new stuff for people playing catch up.
Issues Magazine Store
Maybe full-length literature isn’t your thing. You’d rather get your culture in 250 words or less and a ton of pictures. Maybe you’re just looking for some glossy prints of ripped men and busty ladies. There’s a spot for that just down Shepherd south of West Alabama. Issues is your spot to pick up any specialty magazine, literary journal and otherwise. It’s everything that’s great about a bookstore without the page number commitment.