As we struggle under the generous heaps of academic reading that we are all forced to endure as students, I find it becomes easy to excuse casual reading at the end of a day of studying. Prior to university, I used to go through more books than I could afford in my spare time. Prior to owning a laptop, for that matter, I used to read every night before bed without fail. I found especially in first-year that I dismissed non-academic reading with the excuse that, after all my reading for my classes, I simply didn’t have it in me to pick up another book at the end of the day, no matter the content. It was much easier to pick up my laptop and watch a show or peruse a day’s worth of tweets.
This year, I decided to reinstate my reading habits in favour of twittering, tumblring, and so on. In the pursuit of this cause, I decided to go on an inexpensive book-buying binge which led me to explore the various used books stores we are lucky enough to have around campus in search of gems for my night-time reading. Based on my exploration, I offer this informal guide to used book stores around University of Toronto campus, for night owls, overachieving essay researchers, commuters seeking subway reads, and, of course, book-lovers here at U of T.
Willow Books, 333 Bloor St. West
Tucked next to the Bata Shoe Museum, this visually unimposing bookstore is very easy to miss as one is bustling along Bloor Street. The book selection of this literary trove, however, is hardly reflected in its lacklustre store front. Willow Books boasts a vast collection of books at fantastic prices. Their fiction section has plenty of classics and a hefty amount of modern literature as well. As the signs on the shelves explain, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, they probably have it in storage. The store also has nonfiction books on a wide range of topics, anthologies, and otherwise. This is the type of bookstore where you find all those books you’ve been meaning to read for years, at five dollars each. The top shelves have the fancy, expensive editions that are a pleasure to behold for any booklover but certainly unaffordable. Exercise caution, though, as many of the books from this store are more heavily used. While a used book can be just as good as a new one, and some might say better citing the added charm, some of these books were clearly previously used by students and are covered in markings that are more bothersome than endearing.
Seekers Books, 509 Bloor St. West (Downstairs)
Seekers Books has a noteworthy range of classic and modern titles among its assortment of used books. This store has a unique selection in terms of niche reading on obscure topics, and is a great place to scout material for ambitious essay researchers. The staff is helpful and warm, and the store is more spacious than others of its kind so you’re not stepping on fellow shoppers as you look for books. The book selection at Seekers will satisfy the hippie in you, but isn’t quite as thorough as others on this list.
Ten Editions Bookstore, 698 Spadina Ave
Ten Editions is marked by an appealing exterior featuring a display window that draws in the curious book-lover at first glance, as compared to the more subtle storefronts of many of the other noted used bookstores. Ten Editions boasts an interesting array of editions and a diverse selection of books, as well as an intriguing collection of old postcards and travel booklets. There are also $2.00 books at the front of the store to peruse if you’re feeling lucky, though the odds of finding a prize in this pile are not in your favour.
BMV Books, 471 Bloor Street West
BMV Books is a beloved staple of Bloor Street and the largest book store on this list. It is by far the most visually imposing, and its big windows out onto Bloor Street differentiate it from the other used book stores on this list in a refreshing way. In other words, BMV Books feels less like a basement or library, and more like a regular book store that happens to be selling used editions – and though some may find this openness an advantage, others who are perhaps more romantic may prefer to suffer for their used finds in dusty dens. That sense of being a normal book store permeates with the books being sold, which are high-quality books that usually aren’t too marked up, but have a low price and minor flaws to indicate they are used. BMV offers not only books, but also CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, comics and magazines. It’s a well-organized store with friendly staff and really reasonable prices, as well as a lot of different, eye-catching editions alongside paperbacks that won’t cost you your life’s savings. The first floor holds fiction, with modern titles, classics, poetry anthologies, and a noteworthy Canadian literature section. The first floor also has a lot of the non-fiction titles, including the art section with its many impressive and cheap coffee table books. The second floor, which is filled with how-to guides, history books, and a youth section, also has 3 for $10 books that are definitely worth browsing with a lot of recognizable names on the shelves. These are often displayed outside the store as well. BMV Books has plenty of selection for those looking for something specific, but is also a great place to start searching for used books with its wide, high-quality selection and large, bright space.
If I’ve made a criminal omission, I assure you it is entirely accidental, and encourage you to include it in the comments!