The Denver Bookstore Scene: Impressively Robust

24Sep08
The LoDo Tattered Cover, covering two floors with a nice collection of new books. Check out that Sustainability section!

The LoDo Tattered Cover, covering two floors with a nice collection of new books. Check out that Sustainability section!

Denver, after a week of surveying your bookstores, I can confidently proclaim that your book culture is strong.

Of course, this is in comparison to the rest of America. I know not of how today stacks up to yesteryear.

Everybody said my first destination should be the independently-owned Tattered Cover, a veritable community institution that sells new books.

The two stores I visited didn’t quite live up to the hype. Very importantly, both were selling and prominently displaying Jerome Corsi’s Obama Nation – a libelous take on our next President. (Let’s reprise the Alien and Sedition Acts, so we can throw that bastard in jail! No, that’s very much a joke. Haha.)

On the other hand, each store had a nice sustainability section. Something I think is new, at least from its in-store promotion. It’s worth checking out, especially for eco-minded folks – and there are tons of them in the West.

Other impressions: the Colfax store was smaller than the LoDo store. I’m not sure there was even a full fiction section. Non-fiction was similarly truncated. However, of the small section I sampled – Latin American history – numerous, new juicy titles sprang out. If I was a new-book buying kind of guy, I might could have bought ‘em.

Moving on. Frugal by nature and incomeless, I need used books. The fifth result of my Google search, “Denver used bookstores,” was on Broadway, south of downtown.

Books Unlimited claims all sorts of accolades on its site. One of which is the “best older bookstore in a new location.” I guess so. But that doesn’t mean the books don’t have cobwebs.

Two other stores were within a two-block radius. A shop owner I was to later meet in Boulder called out these stores as treating books like antiques, as they are located in the small antique-selling district of the city and, apparently, operate on the same model.

Keeping it simple: these three stores offer nothing special.

A little farther up Broadway, where the vibe gets kind of funky, things get better. I came across Fahrenheit’s Books, which sells an eclectic assortment of quality used books. Bookstore as incubator of ideas seemed to be the model, with touches of fun – science fiction.

I bought Michael Chabon’s first book, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. And I couldn’t pass up the chance to pass on my new-found knowledge: Fahrenheit 451 is an inferior book. Ray Bradbury can’t write! I got no response from the clerk.

I must have passed at least three other interesting-looking bookstores on my bike ride further up Broadway. But time was short. They seemed to be of the same intellectual variety as Fahrenheit.

Book Buffs, Ltd, in chill Old South Pearl Street, is a store that specializes in “literary fiction” first editions and poetry, but includes a sufficient overall variety. Unfortunately, it’s closing at the end of the year.

A nice woman, who was not the owner, gave great service. I asked: “Does Colorado have its own version of Aldo Leopold or John Muir?” She kept bringing me book after book. But, I still don’t know if he or she exists. I did buy a few historical accounts of exploration in the state and the greater Western United States.

Many folks mentioned Capitol Hill Books – which is also the fourth Google result of “Denver used bookstores.” It’s located right next to Colorado’s State Capitol. The store had nice breadth. But seemed lacking in depth. Maybe I was just tired. (I subsequently napped on a bench outside the capitol. Two semi-rude state troopers awakened me. “No sleeping. This is a state park. You understand, sonny?”)

And, finally, a little taste of Boulder. I was impressed with the fine Beat Book Shop, on Pearl Street. A nice collection that touches many subjects. Ideas are definitely central. I bought a Stephen Jay Gould collection of essays and an account of the Constitutional Convention.

The owner was wacky. He had no one working for him. After paying for housing last year, he claimed to have lived on just $6,000. Books seemed to be his best friend. Surely a good thing in a bookshop keeper.

So, Denver – and environs – it’s a fact. You guys are learned and conscious. I’m impressed.

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