Saturday, February 11, 2006

Avol's shines in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, boasts a variety of new and antiquarian bookstores, which also have the advantage of being located close to one another.

Avol’s Bookstores draws my top recommendation. I’ve been to Avol’s twice and twice come away with some very nice books. Avol’s is actually a combination of two stores; the first featuring more recent books, the second a small but nice selection of antiquarian books. Notable among the antiquarian books is the selection of science fiction offerings and the works of August Derleth, a local boy made good. The books in Avol’s are notable for their condition. I especially like bookstores that offer a broad selection of used books that are bright and clean.

That’s not a claim that can be made by Shakespeare’s books, just a few yards from the State Capitol. I thinks there are books to be found here, but there’s a lot of shabby later printings too. This is the sort of store that awards a patient shopper. It’s notable for its non-fiction selection. I thought its fiction offerings were poor. The books in all the glass cases are probably worth some attention, but I didn’t have the time. I understand dealers need to protect their books from shoplifters, but it is off-putting to have to disturb the lone sleepy clerk to open every case. I feel as if I should buy something after I’ve disturbed the clerk. In this instance, feelings did not translate into action.

Both shops are located just off State Street, which runs from the Capitol to the University of Wisconsin. It's a pleasant street for a stroll, even in February, with lots of restaurants and non-book shops to compete for your attention.

There are more shops in Madison beyond the two I've mentioned. These are the only shops I’ve visited, but I expect to return to Madison later this year. I plan to stop (and buy) in Avol’s again. And I hope to visit a few new (as in I haven’t been there before) stores as well.

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