Sep 2011 23

Best Used Book Stores in Vancouver

Posted by Jay Banks

If someone asks you what you think about books and literature, you might find that you don’t really have an answer. It’s not that it’s too hard to answer the question, it’s just that many people don’t think about literature all that often. It’s not so fashionable anymore. Books are quite expensive, heavy, and it takes more time to read a book than to watch a movie, so why bother?

Tanglewood Books1Tanglewood Books

First, we have to realize that the history of books is incredibly rich, and they will always have a lot to offer. The history of modern humanity is closely bound with books and reading. If you think carefully, it’s incredible how much time you waste that you can fill with a good book. Waiting at the dentist’s or sitting at the bus stop, a good book can help you get rid of boredom. The reason most people gave as an answer to the question “Why buy books specifically in a used book shop?” on Yahoo answers is that you can afford it! It’s much cheaper there, you can find books that are no longer available in normal shops, and such an indescribable atmosphere can be found there.

Here is our selection of Vancouver’s most cozy, fascinating, and inspiring used book shops.

Lawrence Books

3591 41st Avenue W
Phone: (604) 261-3812

Lawrence’s Books is one of those bookstores that seem quite large from outside, but when you enter, you feel a sudden urge to scream, “How is this possible?” If you suffer from claustrophobia, you’d better stay outside and send a friend in! Its sheer vastness results in its biggest advantage, and that is variety. You can find a book from every genre and corner of the world here. Some of the novels are organized by title, but most of them are alphabetically sorted by the authors’ surnames. This makes it a bit harder to find a specific book, but can help you discover many others you didn’t know your favourite author might have written! The staff is very friendly and able to tell you if the book you’re searching for is in or not.

Lawrence Books by Kevin CawleyLawrence Books by Kevin Cawley

MacLeod’s Books

455 Pender Street W
Phone: (604) 681-7654

Do you remember that scene from Harry Potter in the library where the books are so high that Hermione has to use a spell to retrieve them? MacLeod’s Books is exactly that kind of place, where you would do anything to have a magic wand so you could go through the piles of books easily. Although the place looks quite tiny, it probably isn’t. We might have just been fooled by the never-ending stacks of books. Hopping over them, climbing through them, standing on stools to reach them, and pulling them off shelves just to look at the other books hiding behind them — you almost have to be a gymnast to get around.

If you’re searching for a book that’s hard to find and probably out of print, and you want to get a hold of it as soon as possible, MacLeod’s is the place to go. Not only will they know what title you’re talking about, but they will also do everything possible to secure it for you. One customer shared his experience:

I had a specific request as a Christmas gift for a friend: an Arabic Koran. At first, one staff member could only recall a handwritten antique one (est. $500) lying around in the piles but that was absolutely out of my price range. I somewhat gave up, thinking I’ll figure out a plan B as a Christmas gift but the staff member said he’ll keep looking for a more affordable one for me. In a handful of days, I received an email saying they found me one for under $10.

MacLeods by Scott McDonoughMacLeods by Scott McDonough

If you want to search for a book in the store, you’re going on a quest. Books are where you wouldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams, filling up the store completely. You won’t believe your ears when you ask staff about the location of some title and they know where to find it instantly! However, if you’re not in a hurry, you might find yourself spending hours wandering around and finding the most fascinating titles for very reasonable prices. Old books, new books, rare books, fun books — you name it and they’ve got it. MacLeod’s books is pretty strong on history and fiction, and have lots of poetry, drama, and art books as well. They even order titles from of eBay that they believe are worth selling in their store. You won’t be able to leave without books you didn’t even know you needed until you saw them here. If you don’t believe us, you can check out some photos of MacLeod’s.

Carson Books

4275 Dunbar Street
Phone: (604) 222-8787

This is another place to take advantage of the green side of used book reading. Carson Books is quiet and very calm. Their staff is friendly and kind, and very keen to help you with everything. They have quite an impressive collection of both contemporary and classical books — more than enough to satisfy all your reading requirements. They have a respectable collection of Vonnegut titles, if you’re interested in his often hard-to-find works.

This bookstore is smaller than the others, but this gives it a special atmosphere that many people enjoy. If you visit Carson Books and let it be your quiet place only for a moment, you won’t regret it. There is also a second store on West Broadway, which also has a record shop included.

Pulpfiction Books

Pulpfiction Books by Richard ErikssonPulpfiction Books by Richard Eriksson

2422 Main St
Phone: (604) 876-4311

It’s very easy to get around here, with labels, titles, and even organized bookshelves, without that claustrophobic feel many secondhand bookstores have. Pulpfiction Books is a step above. Yes, it’s a bit of a change compared to most used bookstores in the city, yet it offers an enjoyable experience, as you’re not shoulder to shoulder with your neighbour while you peruse the selection.

The name of the store represents what you can find inside apart from classics and contemporary books, and that is a fine selection of pulp fiction. They have their best finds in the front of the store together with all the Canadian– and East Vancouver–specific literature for about half the price compared to the big box bookstores.

The staff is informative, friendly, and very helpful when it comes to finding the book you didn’t even know you were searching for. They will give you great advice for what book to choose, or give you great recommendations, and that’s exactly why you’d want to come to this store: to find a book you never expected to read but which you then come to love. As their website states, it’s a place for “unconventional and bright customers.” The selection of ‘zines and records is rich, and you can even play the records on an in-house record player. And if you’re a fan of science fiction, you simply can’t miss Pulpfiction books.

This is also a great place for bringing in your used books. The staff is fully knowledgeable about the treasures you bring them, often pointing out gems you would underestimate, and their prices are more than fair. But they do mind the condition and quality of books they sell, so you won’t buy (or sell) any shabby volumes here with pages falling out. Don’t come here if you have just ten minutes to spare; this place is worth more than that. There’s no pressure to buy, but if you’re a bibliophile and you’re not shopping here, then you don’t really love books at all.

Tip: They offer a 20 per cent discount if you buy six books or more.

Tanglewood Books

2306 Broadway W
Phone: (604) 736-8876

This bookstore is a valued supporter of local writers, and it offers a wide selection of titles, including used copies in good shape of the latest releases and bestsellers (fiction and non-fiction alike). The store hosts a solid fiction and literature section and lots of interesting adventure travel books and art books that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Almost all books are priced at 50 per cent off the cover price, including books printed twenty or even thirty years ago whose cover prices were much lower than they would be if they were printed today.

Tanglewood BooksTanglewood Books

Tanglewood Books is generous and helpful when it comes to selling or trading your old books. If you want to sell your used tomes, you have to be there right at 10:00 A.M. when the store opens. Perhaps it’s better to trade your books rather than selling, as you’ll get a much better deal (up to twice as much) and instead of waiting in line with others you can go to browse for hidden gems.

You’ll really like this used bookstore — especially the people who work here. Their knowledge is impressive, and they’re unpretentious for a bookstore — definitely no literature snobs here — and they’ll always go out of their way to help you find what you’re looking for.

Canterbury Tales Secondhand Books

2010 Commercial Drive
Phone: (604) 568-3511

Canterbury Tales smells like a book should smell: dusty and old, inviting you to get yourself lost in yellowed pages. This diamond in the rough is the perfect place when you’re looking for something smaller and cozier. As the name suggests, this place carries mostly classics in worn paperback form as well as dusty-sleeved hardcovers. Once you enter, you’ll find yourself sucked into the old classic tales.

What’s really great about this store is their buying deal. If you sell them books, you can either take cash in return or you can spend double the value they’d have given you in store and buy tons of great books from their vast selection of genres and titles. This store usually offers a solid selection of Canadian literature, old editions of books, and newer books at cheap prices as well — but who needs new titles when you can pick up unique older finds dating back to the 1920s? They also have very good cookbooks that are worth checking out.

Hemingway’s Books

33765 Essendene Avenue
(604) 855-1894

Open seven days a week, this is one of the best bookstores where you can find rare and antiquarian books. If offers more than 200,000 titles and over 100 categories from undergraduate-level literature, children’s literature, and gardening texts to metaphysical and religious subjects, making sure everyone finds what they’re looking for. The bookstore has recently added a 2,000-title collection of philosophy, theology, and history. What’s more, after a five-year hiatus, they have returned to the record-selling business with a vast collection. Maybe they have that old classic you’ve always be looking for.

Hemingway Books VancouverHemingway Books Vancouver

Do you have many books just sitting in boxes or on your shelves? Give them a second chance! Take a look at Hemingway’s Top Books We Need list of books that can be traded or bought by the store for as much as 50 per cent of the resale value as in-store credit or up to 35 per cent of the resale value in cash for your books! Keep an eye out for the many readings and author signings in store as well.

If you’d like to find more used bookstores in Vancouver, try this website.

8 Responses to “Best Used Book Stores in Vancouver”

  1. Katy

    I love books and would never stop buying them. Thanks for this entry… used book stores are one of my favorite places to be in.

  2. sebastian pinheiro

    Please, I look for the Talk time, 1, 2, 3 Oxford Press, Is it possible? Thanks. sebastian

  3. Jay Banks

    Hi Sebastian,

    Thanks for stopping by!

    It would be best to contact the shops directly, try visiting their websites and sending them an e-mail. I also recommend visiting them personally, it’s a really great and relaxing experience!


  4. Lindae and John

    I am looking for a copy of Place of Quiet Waters by Margaret McIntyre printed around 1965?

  5. Hon N.

    Hello Jay Banks. I am Hon. I am looking for English books for high school students which include stories and answer questions. Is it possible? I am learning how to retell stories. Please help.

    thank you.

    Best wishes!

  6. Jay Banks

    Hi Lindae and John,

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I’m sorry but I cannot help you with your search for a copy of Place of Quiet Waters. Have you tried inquiring in the book stores above? Try eBay, too. Good luck in your search! Also, you might be interested in another article I wrote about literature in Vancouver.

    Hi Hon,

    Thanks for stopping by! If you’re in Vancouver, try out one of the branches of the Vancouver Library or find some free books online, for example this website looks like a good starting point. Good luck!


  7. Helene

    I have 4 boxes of cook books – where is a good place to sell them to – or give away ?

    • Jay Banks

      Hi Helene,

      Thank you for your question! I think you can sell them in any of the featured Vancouver used book stores if you e.g. call them in advance. Good luck!


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