Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Regional Report: Winnipeg is for lovers...

...used book lovers that is! I went to Winnipeg for the first time in my life for a wedding. I just had this feeling ahead of time that Winnipeg would be a town with some good book stores. I don't know exactly why I felt this way, a blend of the general theory that the poorer parts of the first world tend to have better used bookstores and thrift stores, combined with some vague notion that Winnipeg is a seat of a lot of old school labour and lefty activity (those commies tend to read a lot; dangerous activity, that). I did a bit of googling ahead of time and the results were promising. I had prepared myself a little map and was happy to discover that a lot of the stores I found were within walking distance of the hotel we were staying at. Even better, the way the wedding weekend was structured gave me a lot of free time during the crucial shopping hours on Friday and Saturday.

We started out on Friday morning and the very first bookstore we went into immediately kicked ass. It's called Red River books and was in a beautiful old warehouse. Their mystery section was a bit thin, but their sci-fi was excellent and their prices even better. They had a lot of paperbacks for $1.00, something you just don't see much anymore. They also had some used gamebooks, new and used comics and all kinds of other dusty things. It was one of those places you could just poke around in for hours. The proprietor was almost nearly deaf and we had to write some questions down that we had for him.

I later learned from the groom that the place was run by a father and son team who won the lotto big time several years ago. He said you can see them riding around town on their bikes. I guess the bookstore is their labour of love and maybe that explains the old-fashioned low prices on their books.

I also found their a brochure labeled EAT! Bistro presents Winnipeg's BOOK WALK. It unfolded to a sweet little walking map, detailing "The Book District", in which I happened to be right in the middle! There were several places that I hadn't found on google so this was a real bonus. I also found a great little comic store (where I got not one but two "nice shirt!"'s for the Car Wars shirt I was wearing; geek cred baby!). These guys knew there stuff. They had the entire run of Kamandi which I was seriously tempted to get, but really all I want is the map in issue #32.

So the Book Walk ended up taking me most of Friday, with a lot of good little finds here and there. If you are going to Winnipeg, you can find the brochure at any of the participating bookstores, including Red River, which is linked above. They don't have a website, but there is an email to contact, so if you are heading out there and want this info, post a comment and I'll send it to you.

Near the end of the afternoon, Meezly couldn't keep up the pace and I had to send her back. At the last store on the brochure, the small but organized Bison Books, I found another brochure! This time it was the Book Hunter's Map of Winnipeg 2008-09 edition, sponsored by the members of the Winnipeg Assocation of Secondhand Booksellers. Except for Bison Books, every single store in this new brochure had not been mentioned in the Book Walk brochure! The difference was that almost all of these were outside of the downtown area. The friendly clerk explained to me that this second group were all paying members of the association and that for whatever reasons, the more centrally located groups did not feel the need to belong to that association. All the info in the second brochure can be found on their website.

I didn't have a car but had a bit of time and decided to take a bus to Black-Letter Books & White-Light Psychics which also happened to be not too far from the only game store in town. It was not a mistake! A fantastic little store, way up on a very empty part of Main street with very nicely organized and easily accessible shelves. They had a very nice sci-fi collection and some excellent collectibles (including some sweet original REH paperbacks). I only found one thing there, a beautiful hardback of The Snake by John Godey (writer of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) for $6. This store also had a psychic and a really friendly dog. Great place.

I visited several stores on Saturday, but the highlight of the trip was Nerman's the last place I went to (and making me late for the party on Saturday; no worries, though I made up for it). Holy crap. This store was amazing. They have an excellent selection of sci-fi, mystery and action (yes, that's how kickass Winnipeg used bookstores are, they almost all had an Action section), all in paperback. I found stuff I was looking for in those sections, including two books on Lantzvillager's list (that's always a coup!). But the shelves kept going and guess what, they had a massive "Vintage" section. And it was no joke! Books just kept piling into my hands. I found Journey Into Terror by Peter Rabe and a first edition Parker (The Man with the Getaway Face, but the cover was ripped and I have it already). I really could have spent a lot more time here, but time I didn't have. Still an extremely satisfying stop and I strongly recommend those of you in this game to try and get a chance to check out Nerman's. He also has an incredible collection of children's books, including tons of old british classics. I barely got a chance to look at that, but it was promising to swallow me up.

I ended up coming home with 23 books, swelling my on deck shelf to its very edges. For used books, Winnipeg kicked ass. To summarize, my three favorites were Red River Books, Black-Letter Books and Nerman's Books. Really truly satisfying and everywhere I went I had a little conversation piece in the sweet paperback I was carrying. Also, the locals at the wedding were impressed that I had taken the bus and gone off the beaten path a bit. A satisfying weekend all around, but extremely satisfying for the bibliophile.

(note, I have some more social and cultural comments about Winnipeg on my other blog if you're interested.)


Jason L said...

So sweet. It sounds like the perfect storm of undiscovered stores that don't see too much heavy pressure from the online resellers.

Not sure I will ever get to Winnipeg but if I do then I will set aside 2 or 3 days days just for hunting.

OlmanFeelyus said...

That's the hitch right there. Nobody has a reason to go to Winnipeg. Maybe you'll get a wedding like I did.