Right-priced reading

I have purchased hundreds of books in thrift stores. Fiction, nonfiction. Hardbacks, paperbacks. Academic doorstops, 150-page pocketbooks. It’s all there if you look closely. You can build an impressive library on the cheap — typically $1 to $3 per book.

In my experience, Savers has the best book sections. Better than Goodwill, Salvation Army, Deseret Industries. I can’t explain this. (I do know Goodwill sifts out some of its better books to sell online. But don’t rule out Goodwill: I found a couple of gems there just the other day.) Of the valley’s seven Savers stores, three consistently offer the most diverse selection: 2620 S. Decatur Blvd., 2300 E. Tropicana Ave. and 3121 N. Rancho Drive.

The Savers on East Trop is a “superstore,” and the massive book section does justice to that billing. On a recent visit, amid the multiple copies of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love — a thrift-store staple — I spied several top-tier literary works, including Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude. The nonfiction section offered a collection of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s political writings and a signed edition of John L. Smith’s Steve Wynn bio, Running Scared.

Eventually you see patterns. You may notice that a store suddenly has a large number of books about European history. Or the science-fiction section has a near-complete set of the Horseclans novels. There’s something solemn about this — it indicates that a book lover has died or given up his prized possessions.

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You might see individuals in thrift stores poking their smartphones at one volume after another. They’re searching for books to sell on eBay. They rarely show any sign of being book lovers, thus the reliance on an app to tell them its value.

Don’t expect the sections to be well organized. Savers tries to separate books into categories, but the employees typically decide where to shelve them based on the titles, which leads to some humorous misplacements. Check all the shelves.

My wife picks up old cookbooks in thrift stores. Sometimes she finds recipes worth trying, but often she finds the strangest things. She recently brought home a cookbook with a section on “Congealed Vegetable Salads.” Trust me, you don’t even want to know how to make a mackerel salad.

Like books? Check out the Vegas Valley Book Festival, October 17. Vegasvalleybookfestival.org

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