Going on used book shopping adventures

Hands down, one of my favorite things about living in the Central Valley is the Great Valley Bookfest. I came across it while coming back home from a date a few years ago, and I’ve been making an active effort to attend every year! (Is my blog becoming a case study of life in the Valley? You tell me.) 

Basically, authors, vendors, and local organizations come out to celebrate all things books. I could spend hours, I kid you not, wandering the Friends of the Library book sale, where volunteers set out dozens of boxes of used books to raise money for the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library system. In past years, I’ve been more keen on browsing literary fiction, gardening guides, and romance novels, but I was set on perusing classics and cozy mysteries this year. 

Used books I picked up at the Great Valley Bookfest

I spent a good chunk of this year devouring cozy mysteries during a mental health slump, and trust me when I say that I was not disappointed by the sale’s massive cozy mystery selection! Naturally, there were several tables devoted to literary fiction, but I was surprised to find several for mysteries alone. I’m still breaking into the genre, and I mostly gravitate towards cozy mysteries based on their book covers and blurbs. That said, you’d probably have luck finding specific authors there — there were boxes full of Janet Evanovich titles alone. (Personally, I’ve been poring over Krista Davis, Joanne Fluke, Ellie Alexander, and Vivien Chien, but was still open to picking up other authors!) 

Stacks of books next to a blue bag (left) and two books in the front

I had $15 and a dream. Paperbacks sold for 50 cents and hardbacks for a dollar. At those prices, I brought home several mountains of books! Some cozies I picked up include titles by Isis Crawford, Agatha Christie (if you count her), Leslie Meier, M.C. Beaton, and Cynthia Baxter. Of course, I picked up a few non-cozies as well, including E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Jennifer Probst’s One Italian Summer, Charmaine Wilkerson’s Black Cake, Jamaica Kincaid’s At the Bottom of the River, and Alice Hoffman’s Illumination Nights. I think I left with a good 20 books…

As much as I love this book sale, I also keep an eye out for used books on a regular basis. Here are my favorite places to go used book hunting — this is, after all, becoming a space for secondhand shopping tips. 

Where to buy used books

  • Thriftbooks: If you don’t like leaving the house, there are plenty of used books for sale online. I’m new to Thriftbooks, but I’m kind of obsessed with its extensive online catalog of used books. Shipping is fairly cheap — it’s $1.49 per item, but you also get free shipping if your total purchase is $15 or more. As with many used book sale sites, book conditions may vary. There aren’t individual product pictures, and sometimes you might receive a battered withdrawn library book if you don’t read the description carefully. 
  • Goodwill/Saver’s/Thrift Stores: Your mileage may vary at thrift shops, but sometimes you can find pretty neat books. In several Central Valley locations, books are 25 cents a pop. My local charity shop even has 10 for $1 media deals on Thursdays. For a while, I found a bunch of Reese’s and Oprah’s Book Club selections, if you’re into that! 
  • eBay: eBay is probably my go-to resource for buying cheap used books online, although book conditions may vary. Usually, I get books from sellers like Better World Books or regional Goodwills. I do find that you get a better sense of a book’s condition when you buy from an individual seller, though.
  • Half Price Books: I lived next to Moe’s in Berkeley a few years ago, but I’d occasionally browse downtown bookstores like Pegasus and Half Price Books. Now, I typically peruse HPB’s online selection since the closest one to me is in Dublin. Shipping is $3.99 per item, and their used books have always arrived in great condition. 
  • My local used bookstore: I could spend hours browsing the cozy mystery section at the used bookstore near me. I usually go there when I want to pick up a classic — they offer ½ off used books if you have store credit with them, which I have from donating books.  My local independent bookshop doesn’t offer discounts on new books, but they’re usually marked down. I’ve also had great luck at Mad Monk, where they have awesome $1-$2 book sales.
  • The public library: Don’t sleep on your public library! Other than borrowing the latest titles, you can also peruse the Friends of the Library book collection to find used books for sale. Typically, items retail for anywhere from 25 cents to $5. The library’s collection is usually modest, but you can also check out bigger library sales every so often. You can pin your library’s events calendar or Google something like “library book sales near me.”

Anyway…I just wanted to recap my latest book adventure. I think it’s officially time for me to close the chapter on this blog and actually go read for fun. Happy reading, friends! 

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