You’re going to a used bookstore or charity book sale. Make sure you prepare. If you don’t, believe me, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and unsure.

I love used bookstores and charity book sales. All those books looking for a home. And for rock bottom prices that mean I can bring a bag full of them home with me and still be able to afford groceries. It’s a little taste of heaven. (I know, that’s a super cliche phrase, but I can’t help it.)

This summer, I’m going on vacation. And on that vacation, I’m going book shopping. I’m stoked to go back to a wonderful used bookshop that I haven’t been to in seven years (it’s a really long way from where I live). It’s basically a warehouse FULL of used books. Aisles and aisles of tall shelves filled to bursting with tenderly loved paperbacks and hardcovers. I promised by dad we’d go there as his Father’s Day present (it’s a very self-serving gift, but I know he plans to go there anyway).

Before I go, though, I need to prepare. I don’t want to walk into that paradise and not remember what I’m looking for or get lost in the stacks and stacks of books to choose from. I need a plan.

3 Ways to Prepare for a Used Bookstore Shopping Spree

Make a list of the books and authors you want to look for

We all have huge TBRs, I know. But there are always a bunch of books (preferably backlist) that I have been wanting to read for ages. These are the perfect books to look for at used bookstores, which can easily be overwhelming. They are usually full of so many books stacked on top of one another, and the corners and walkways are filled with boxes overflowing with even more books.

Take a few minutes before you go and write down the titles of books you are interested in looking for. Don’t forget to write down the author’s names too, or you might not be able to find them in the shop.

This way, you’ll have a guide for where to start while you shop. This can be especially helpful when you’re reading a series. Look for that author’s section and start there. You don’t have to stick to your shopping list if you don’t want to. But I find having a written list of the books I want helps keep my brain from going blank at all the options (too many options is actually a scientific problem, it’s called choice overload.)


Set limits for yourself – price, type, number of books, total spending

Buying every book you think looks good might sound rad at first, but it can quickly add up. And, if you’re traveling like I will be soon, it can weigh your suitcase down a lot.

Choose a maximum price per book that you’re willing to spend, or set yourself a maximum total spending limit, or even the number of or type of books (i.e. not more than seven books, or only paperbacks) to help you control the urge to take all the book babies home with you.

When I first started reading Harry Potter, I was a poor college student living in a rented room in Toronto. I needed to read a children’s book for my Children’s Literature class and I decided it was high time I read Harry Potter. I found a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in a used bookstore for seven dollars. I loved it. As soon as I finished, I knew I needed to read the rest of the series. But, again, I was poor. So on my way to the used bookstore near my house, I told myself I could only buy HP books if they were 1) used, 2) paperback and 3) under seven dollars. It was tough, and it took me almost a year to find all the books that met my criteria. But I stuck to my limit and I managed to keep my spending under control. And, eventually, I read the whole series. Plus, looking for books that met my criteria ended up feeling like a game and being it’s own fun adventure.


Give yourself lots of time

Used bookstores are mazes. They are usually messes too. But that’s all part of the fun!

Plan your used book store shopping spree for a day with no other commitments. Make sure you have at least a few hours to spend perusing the shelves and stacks. 

Feeling rushed while looking through a bookstore is never fun. It just speeds up your heart rate and makes it impossible to discover treasures. Schedule your shopping spree on a day with lots of time to wander. And make sure that whoever you bring with you is willing to be patient and let you explore – or even better, explore with you!


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There you have it, my three tips for preparing for (and succeeding at) a used bookstore shopping spree. Come back tomorrow for my used bookstore shopping list!


Now tell me, what gems have you discovered in used bookstores?
Do you have any other tips for used bookstore shopping?

  1. I had half of Harry Potter in paperback and half hardcover And the paperbacks were all falling apart so I tried to find them for under $5 hardcover. It took five years for three books but I finally did it 😍
    Patience is definitely a thing you need for used book sales. I definitely agree with setting a budget, that helps so much and you can always put books back.
    I actually don’t have any books on my “I want to own” list right now (I’ve never written it down though) which has never happened before but we have a 4th if July library book sale coming up so obviously I’m going to buy something. It’s tradition.
    Okay I’m done rambling now! Loved the post 😘

  2. The best used book stores for my tastes (must be 50 years old or older) are in London England. We travel there every 5 years or so and I leave room in my suitcase for those hardcover, thick paper beauties. Vancouver Island is also a treasure trove for some reason.
    Taking a list of the books I already own is a good idea. I often forget the titles of a prolific author.
    Each trip, I take a chance on one unknown author, having read the first few pages for style. The disappointment in the lousy ones is worth the discovery of a new favourite.

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