Curlin' up in Saint Paul's used bookstores

By Kayla Burchuk

Half Price Books Records MagazinesWhen it comes to the Ford Parkway outpost of this local used bookstore chain, the name pretty much says it all. This spacious, well-lit store nearly boasts the quality and selection of the Barnes and Noble across the street at half the price. Half Price’s greatest strength lies in its huge selection of different media. Within the first third of the store one can easily encounter DVDs, CDS, Vinyl LPs, tapes, and VHS within a couple of steps of each other. As with most used bookstores, quality and selection decrease as prices plummet, so if you’re drawn to the $5 or less DVD cart chances are you’ll be spending more time with “Giggle” and the Care Bears versus Quentin Tarantino. However, prices on decent movies on DVD hover just below $10 and box sets of popular television go for 50% off the original price. Classic 60s musicians, contemporary favorites, and pop-chart has-beens intermingle in the easy to browse music sections. Prices on records and CDs vary depending on artist popularity and generally range between $5 and $10. The 50cent LP section located underneath the regular records is also a must for the die-hard collector willing to go the distance for the occasional bizarre treasure.

The books at half price consist of mostly newer titles in great condition for excellent prices. Even better, the first table you see upon walking in is filled with chic new coffee table books for half their outrageous sticker prices. The extensive art and design section overflows with the books you normally salivate over at the Walker Art Center gift shop but can never afford, also half off.
If the upstairs prices still overwhelm you, journey downstairs to Half Price’s wood paneled basement where the real bargains start. There you will find the glorious fiction and literature room stocked to the ceiling with beautiful books by well known authors, many nearly mint hardbacks for around $7.95. The $1 bargain basement next door also surprisingly stocks many well-known authors. There you will also find the vintage magazine section, which boasts expensive art journals, vintage gun magazines, and old issues of Time for the avid ironic collagist. If you are especially short on cash the basement is a definite must.

Half Price Books, Records, Magazines
2041 Ford Pkwy
St Paul, MN 55116
(651) 699-1391
Halfpricebooks.com

Midway Used and Rare Books

Midway has the feel of a classic used bookstore with its towing plywood shelves filled with piles of dusty and decaying hardcovers. The selection focuses on rare and collectible books and the prices reflect that. Despite the higher prices, this museum-like University Ave. outpost deserves a visit even if you are only killing a couple of minutes while a friend picks something up at Big Top Liquors across the street. In fact, unless you are willing to drop a few on something ancient, browsing may be the best way to experience Midway.
The main level of the store has an extensive collection of comics of the superhero and Archie and Friends variety as well as a gated off rare comics aisle. There is an extensive art wall of beautiful oversize books with big color plates that go for $20 and above. The store has large sections for science, cooking, history, and pulp paperbacks. A cruise down the supposedly 21+ adults only aisle is definitely a must. There you can find immaculately bagged Playboys and porno mags dating back to the titillating 1960s as well as vintage erotica novels and reprints of ZAP! Comics.
Midway has a well organized albeit pricey fiction section located upstairs. There you’ll find the classics, as well as a worn paperback of the “Nanny Diaries” for ten bucks and above. If the prices become overwhelming you can venture down an obscured stairs from the first floor to Midway’s own bargain basement. There all books are $2.50, crappy comics are three for a buck and hundreds of old art exhibition catalogues for a buck apiece.
Midway is the bookstore for true vintage book enthusiast. If you enjoy perusing old issues of Time from 1916 on snowy afternoons this is the store for you.

Midway Used and Rare Books
1579 University Ave. West
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 644-7605
Midwaybook.com

Sixth Chamber Books

Sixth Chamber Books is like your average quaint, neighborhood bookstore except full of painstakingly curated used books and with NPR blasting on the stereo. The small local store, located one block west of Kowalski’s, provides the customer with amazing variety and quality for such a small operation. The cozy store manages to fit plentiful philosophy, psychology, gay and lesbian, and sociology sections under its small roof. The store also sports a decent fiction section, books not in English, and a shelf of books on tape. When you walk in you are met with a bright display of new arrivals and a small cart of bargain books. You might also notice the adorable children’s section set up like an elementary school classroom. The colorful rug could provide a comforting safe haven to read old Goosebumps in privacy after a night of hard partying.
Unfortunately Sixth Chamber doesn’t have the huge bargain sections of other, bigger stores. However, most of their books are barely used, hand picked and are mostly priced between $2-10. The friendly staff, great atmosphere, and convenient location make this unique local business worth the walk.

Sixth Chamber Used Books
1332 Grand Ave
St Paul, MN 55105
(651) 690-9463