The Busman’s Holiday

What does a publisher/book collector do on a car trip up the coast of Oregon? After passing all the scenery—restless slate blue ocean on the left, sometimes impenetrable, occasionally clear-cut forest on the right—and all the delightful roadside attractions along the way (the Prehistoric Gardens, West Coast Game Park Safari, Misty Meadows Jams & Jellies, myrtlewood galleries galore), where do a book lover and his wife seek solace from the endless panorama of the road?

We visit bookstores, of course. It’s always a busman’s holiday for us. Brookings was to be our first stop. There is a great little used paperback shop called Earl E Books on Fern Ave. right off Highway 101, where we always find a treasure or two. But this time they were closed. Turned out that the owner had broken a leg while tree-chopping the week before. We stopped on the way back, but it seemed odd to start the journey without visiting Gordon at Earl E Books.

Undaunted, we pulled into Gold Beach up the road, stopped for a quick pizza fix, then off to Gold Beach Books—two stories of new and used books, with a cheapie rack in front where old paperbacks go for a quarter. They used to have a lot of treasures in the outside rack. This time, the pickings were slim. We decided to forge ahead, and spend more time at Gold Beach Books on the way back. The used section upstairs needs time, and we wanted to get to our yurt camp by late afternoon.

The camp was just outside Coos Bay, so we stopped at Books by the Bay in North Bend before driving over to our site. Located inside an old bank, it has a nice, clean look to it, with books on the left, café on the right, and the restroom in the old bank vault! It features mostly recently-used books rather than old treasures. My tastes run to the mid-20th century, so my wife found a lot more of interest here, including some recent young adult steampunk she had been looking for.

The next morning we headed north. Drove right past Reedsport—more on that in a bit—and on to Florence, Yachats, Waldport (home of Well Read Books, where I picked up a small handful of vintage William Tenn paperbacks), Newport, and finally, the book mecca…Lincoln City. Why does this small coastal town have so many great used bookstores? I have no idea. But they’ve got Robert’s Bookshop, and that’s reason enough to shop there. Robert’s is like a one-story version of Powell’s Books in Portland—several rooms of books just packed to the rafters, in every category imaginable, from old hardbacks to recent paperbacks, but much more of the old than the new.

I find it impossible to visit Robert’s without walking out with an armload of books. My wife, Cindy, was completely exhausted by the time we left. It’s a treasure trove in there. But that’s not all. Down the road is Bob’s Beach Books, same owner, with more recent used paperbacks, mostly genre fiction. And two blocks down from that is Pacific Coast Books, run by a very friendly and very helpful owner who just made you want to buy books for the sheer pleasure of it—which, of course, we did.

Eventually we drove as far as Cannon Beach, a sort of Oregon-style Carmel-by-the-Sea, where we found the Cannon Beach Book Company–a well-stocked new bookstore—and Jupiter’s Used Books, very friendly and welcoming, though no treasures to be found at this stop.

After several days of relaxing at Cape Lookout State Park—nothing like yurt camping for a good night’s sleep while it’s pouring down rain at night as raccoons ransack your cooler—we headed south again, and this time we stopped in Reedsport. Good thing we did. Reedsport Books & Tapes is going out of business, and every book was on sale for 60% off. And there were rooms of them. The owner is retiring, but in his heyday, he’d have folks drive hundreds of miles to shop his store. Making the claim of “45,000 used books,” we were seeing it already sold down—and it was still filled with books! Rows and rows of mysteries, science fiction, romance, horror. A genre reader’s dream store. None of the old treasures we found in Robert’s, but still, lots of books and in good condition, too. We bought a box load.

Also in town is another used bookstore called Donna’s Books, run by a couple who are also retiring. I have no idea what the folks of Reedsport are going to do when these two stores are gone. Move, I guess.

Anyway, we probably missed a few used bookstores along the way. I mean, you can only spend so much time shopping for books on your vacation, right? You have to spend a little downtime just relaxing. Time was, I would spend a lot of time at campgrounds hiking around. Now, I truly appreciate a nice spot by the campfire, with a large pile of books on one hand, and fresh cup of camp coffee at the other. It’s the busman’s holiday for me.

–Greg Shepard


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