Howdy, bookworms. I’ve had the idea for this compilation for several weeks but am just now getting around to getting it started. I was going to wait until I could make it more extensive and visit more area bookstores. But a list like this has got to start somewhere, and perhaps you kind commenters can suggest other, overlooked booksellers.
And, before we jump, let’s get this part out of the way: I’m not interested in discussing book-buying from Amazon or Powell’s or the like. I mean, on occasion I am, but not here. I agree and admit it’s nice to get something in the mail. But instant gratification is nicer. My dad swears by Amazon Prime, which is cool, but it doesn’t replace the actual experience of going to an actual bookstore. Plus, no matter how well Jeff Bezos thinks he knows me, I’d rather tilt my head 90 degrees, walk sideways through the stacks, and browse randomly and alphabetically versus clicking through a bunch of recommendations.
That being said, click to the jump and check out a bunch of recommendations.
Here’s what I look for in a bookstore:
U2 Factor — Can you found what you’re looking for? This factor factors in most with new releases, but it also pertains to the backlog. And, for me, it’s all about the Fiction. (Or, Fiction/Literature, as some stores categorize it.)
Eminem Factor — Are you able to lose yourself? When not looking for something specific, I’m looking to get lost. Find a cubbyhole and read a random chapter. Discover a subject I never knew would interest me. Meander, dawdle, and futz.
Dolly Parton Factor — How does the magazine rack rate? I’m a magazine nerd. Even though I subscribe to too many (a dozen or so, at last count), I still like looking.
Now, on with the reviews.
Barnes & Noble – Lincoln Park (Northwest Hwy. and Central Expwy). Might as well start at the top. On average, this B&N is my favorite bookstore in Dallas. When I’m looking for a new hardcover novel — forgot to mention, I’ve become a hardcover snob — this is the spot. Fiction area is expansive and upstairs, where it’s quieter and tidier than the cafe/travel section/music stuff below. Comfy chairs on the landing at the top of the escalators are nice. True, it feels like someone else’s crowded den when more than three or four people are gathered, but that’s okay. And the magazine rack is the best in the city now that Tower Records is gone — huge wall covered in covers, with plenty of benches for sitting. U2F: 8. EF: 6. DPF: 9.
Borders – Lovers Lane. This location underwent a mini-redesign a couple of months ago. The center of the store is now a circle of music download stations. More like Border’s Music & Books, am I right? (crickets) Point is, this Border’s has friendly and super-helpful booksellers, but the store itself seems to suffer from an identity crisis. I seem to remember more comfy chairs strewn about back in the day, but those seem to be replaced by end-caps of James Patterson thrillers. U2F: 7. EF: 5. DPF:8.
Half Price – Northwest Highway. I had a great comparison going in my head: Borders is to Whole Foods as Barnes & Noble is to Central Market. But where does that leave Half Price? A signature Tom Thumb? There’s something almost antithetical to a big-box-retail version of the little-independent bookstore that could. Of course, Half Price is no longer little. And, as anyone who has spent countless hours here can attest, it works. Great selection, with plenty of hardcover copies of not-quite-yet-classics. Magazine rack is perfect … if you are looking for back issues of National Geographic. The “current” periodicals ain’t. U2F: 8. EF: 7. DPF: 2.
Barnes & Noble – Mockingbird. Seems almost unfair to knock this B&N. It’s more of the SMU bookstore than a self-sustaining shop. It doesn’t even show up on the “Dallas” search of the corporate site. Short stacks mean cramped isles and not much in the way of selection. The magazine rack will do in a pinch, that is, if you need a big circ title and you don’t want to drive any further. U2F: 4. EF: 2. DPF: 3.
Paperback Plus. This isn’t so much a bookstore as it is a labyrinth of books that happen to be for sale. As the name implies, this East Dallas joint has mostly non-hardcover books. I like it anyway. The layout is cramped and confusing, but that’s part of the charm. If Paperbacks Plus were a person, it’d likely call Half Price a sell out. Eminem Factor is off the charts. I’m tempted to give the magazine rack a pass, as there were two semi-recent issues of D prominently displayed, but there wasn’t much to choose from (just one, double-decker rack) and I wasn’t sure the mags were for sale. U2F: 3. EF: 10. DPF: 2.
Borders – Uptown. Much like the B&N – Northwest Hwy., the fiction area is upstairs. And much like the B&N – Northwest Hwy., I like it. I’m not sure this next sentence is going to make sense, but here goes: This is my favorite bookstore to go to during the weekday. Granted, I haven’t made a lot of weekend visits, but it just seems more suited for an aprÃ©s-business-lunch browse. Location helps. U2F:7. EF: 6. DPF: 8.
Borders – Preston-Royal. I remember when this Borders was the first “superstore bookstore” in Dallas. I lived with my parents at the time, about five minutes away. I spent a lot of time at that Borders. The last time I went — about six months ago — it still felt like home. But it also felt like a million people were there. A crowded bookstore does not a bad bookstore make. And I like the segregation of books and music. I’m making myself wistful. I must revisit. U2F: 8. EF: 6. DPF: 7.
Barnes & Noble – Preston-Royal. Perhaps the beancounters at B&N saw a million people at Borders – Preston-Royal as well and, a la the Burger King location strategy, opened up a store across the street. (Okay, fine: catty-corner.) I’ve been in this B&N exactly once, but it seemed to have the exact layout of the Bookstop in Austin where I worked for several months out of college, which was similar to the layout of the Bookstop next to Inwood Theater. [Sigh] I miss that Bookstop next to Inwood Theater. [Sigh] Austin, too. The following rankings are highly suspect: U2F: 7. EF: 6. DPF: 6.
Half Price – Preston. I end up at this Half Price location about two or three times a year, convinced that I’m going to stumble across a rare find or a first-edition classic. Which is odd, since I don’t hunt down rare finds or first-edition classics. Still, this Half Price has the intimacy that the Northwest Hwy outpost lacks. I also have a theory that selling your books here versus NW Hwy. gets you more money. Note: I have no basis for this theory. U2F: 6. EF: 8. DPF: 2.
Barnes & Noble – Irving. Years ago, I worked at American Airlines Publishing, with headquarters out by the airport. Lunchtime meant a trip to Belt Line. Often for me, it also meant a stop at this Barnes & Noble, part of — but not really — Irving Mall. As mall bookstores go (remember Waldenbooks in Northpark), this one is huge. Good selection. Open layout. Not worth the drive if you don’t work/live in the vicinity, though. U2F: 6. EF: 6. DPF: 6.
As the title of the post says, the list is incomplete. I’ll be adding to it someday. There’s a newish B&N where Prestonwood used to be. There’s There was a Borders on Coit (thank you, commenters). There’s a children’s bookstore in Snider Plaza. I need to get out there. Check back if so inclined.