Book Culture in the Twin Ports

Poster of MN Bookstores

So today, I stopped by the Amazing Alonzo used bookshop. It was my second used bookstore adventure in two weeks, and it makes me think about book culture in the Twin Ports.

Used Bookstores

So last weekend was the bag sale at Gabriel’s Books in Lakeside.  It’s 2,200 feet of books — it’s big, in the basement of what looks like an old Catholic school building masquerading as a professional building.  I found some paranormal romance, some Russell Kirk (an old school conservative thinker), some books about Asian immigration.  All loaded into a grocery sack for $5.  (I love bag sales.  I can buy three books for me and then fill the bag with books for other people and feel like I got a good deal.)

This weekend, I stopped by Amazing Alonzo.  The shop remains a place where romance books go to retire — so many romance books, organized into categories that mean nothing to me.  But there are so many other cool books — from Edgar Rice Burroughs to an expanded graphic novel section to large print to…  hats?  I love the way that the shop has expanded to included some locally produced craft goods.

hatsThere is a not-very-very-big, but always interesting selection of used books, magazines, and paper ephemera at Globe News in Superior.  I stopped by there about a month ago, thumbing through a nice selection of used role playing game books and science fiction.  But I love the magazine selection — thinner, by volume, than B&N, but with some quirky selections that B&N does not carry.

I have not been to the used bookshop on the West Side for a while — Second Look Books.  I remember thinking that they were heavier on romance than I was interested in (can you tell what I look for?).  But the puzzles were awesome.  Anyone been these lately?

Chester Creek.  So many used books and things for my book-unfriendly friends to shop while I thumb through the books.  I spent December 26th of 2014 there with someone on not-a-date whom I eventually crushed on like a schoolkid.  So I haven’t been back in a while.  Stupid heart.  Maybe someone who’s been there lately can fill me in?

Did I miss any others?  I mean, I always take a pass through the books at Savers.  If I am bored in Canal Park, I will stop at Father Time.  But what am I missing?


People forget sometimes that the university and college libraries will let community members check out materials. Here are the policies for Lake Superior College, for UM Duluth, for UW Superior.  Someday, when I retire, I will sign up for all these cards so I can keep reading the books that Duluth Public won’t get.  I missed their Christmas movie because I didn’t check the calendar;  I hope you’ll do better than I did in the future.

New Bookstores

Am I right that we have basically two new bookstores?  I would not make the UMD Bookstore destination bookshopping, myself, although they have bargains once in a while. Prøve Gallery offers a limited array of locally produced books.  But these are “as long as you are already there, look at the books” — not “go there to look at the books.”

The Bookstore at Fitgers:  I bought a copy of the best Jane Yolen book ever written, Things to Say to a Dead Man, here for $5.  I also bought some Dr. Pepper flavored licorice whips, so my taste is suspect.  Their game section is improving, too.

Barnes and Noble:  I just about live here.  It’s quiet, even on the busiest days.  And you can complain about big box retailers all you want, but they do a lot to keep mid-level presses alive.  (Sources I read say that about 20% of small press sales run through chain bookstores — that’s not insignificant.)  Maybe they keep the whole industry alive: “Without Barnes & Noble, the publishers’ marketing proposition crumbles. The idea that publishers can spot, mold and publicize new talent, then get someone to buy books at prices that actually makes economic sense, suddenly seems a reach.”  So yeah, I buy a cup of coffee and a magazine and sit here for hours.  I don’t want to watch 500+ bookstores close in my lifetime.  (We lost more than 600 when Borders closed, although Books-A-Million bought a few dozen.)

People & Presses & More

This list could go on forever.  Claire.  Tony.  Ed.  Konnie.  Jim.  Who am I forgetting?  An author you want to celebrate?  A publisher I forgot?  Help me out in the comments.

The Northeast Minnesota Book Awards.

So much book culture for a town our size. So much. Grateful.

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