Trade ‘N Books is an overstuffed, creaking, catastrophe of a bookstore on Madison, pretty close to downtown. They only sell used books, and the selection is almost entirely trade fiction, of the romance/western/science fiction/mystery/thriller flavors. There is a small selection of other, “classic”
type fiction (Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and so forth) and an equally small number of non-fiction books, mostly offering financial and legal advice or expounding on niche histories and inspirational lives. It’s the kind of place where, if there is a philosophy section (and there usually isn’t), it’ll have a Bible and a New Age book about crystals.
As the name implies, you can bring in your old books and exchange them for “new” ones. We didn’t trade any books the day we were there, but they seemed to be doing a healthy business with folks using their store credit – there were a number of people going through the narrow aisles filling plastic grocery store-type shopping baskets with books. This is an oddly heartwarming sight if you’re a bibliophile, even if the currency is mostly of the Koontz/King/Grisham variety. Beach house reading to the max!
The maze of shelves can be sort of intimidating, especially if you’re not already conversant with your genre of interest. The romance section seems particularly able to cause sensory overload, with its yards and yards of candy-
colored titles promising appropriately soft-core delights of different kinds. They had the ones set in “historical times.” They had the ones with Fabio on the cover. They had the ones that looked like they had been stored in a moist restroom.
If you turn right when entering and follow the path all the way down a stair or two, you enter a kind of special annex devoted to huge shelves lined with cardboard boxes. Each box has an author’s name on it and the box is full of random, unsorted paperbacks by that author. You’ve got your Crichton and your W.E.B. Griffin. No, there’s no box for Susan Sontag, nor one for Neruda, but there are five boxes of Tom Clancy and Stephen King is the only author bestowed with the honor of an entire shelf. This special “sort by author” room is a store highlight and prompted a good discussion about whether having a box in this room with your name on it would be a good thing for a writer. On the one hand, it means you have had enough commercial success for there to be a box full of random paperbacks that you have crafted, each well-worn and thumbed through. On the other, it means you have generated such mammoth quantities of pulp crap that you likely are responsible for the death of at least one forest. Plus, the rows of boxes highlighted the commodification of authorial identity: a second-hand monument to the nexus between art and the commercial food chain. We both concluded that we would like to have boxes with our names on them because it would mean that we were rich and famous and people got joy from reading our books.
We bought a Lurleen Wallace biography and an autobiography of noted cat-torturer Bill Frist. Not sure how often we’ll be back, but that’s mostly because neither of us reads a lot of the kinds of books on sale here. Seems like a great place if you’re into genre fiction.