A used and unique copy of a book has a certain romantic appeal. Used book stores offer a unique and vast selection of books that larger chains can’t provide, for a fair price. If that doesn’t have you convinced, remember that by buying used you are (hear the mantra) saving money, supporting local businesses, and supporting sustainable industries.
There are many used book stores in Montreal, each with its own cut and jibe. More than a place of commerce, there is definitely a community aspect to these stores. Hopefully this guide will be of some use to those of us who find a moment to read something besides a textbook or course pack this semester.
For book requests and more information on used bookstores in Montreal and other cities, visit usedbookcircle.com.
1439 Stanley, Metro Peel
Sandwiched between “Phat City” and a luxury apartment building, Odyssey Books could easily go unnoticed, but it does not – and with good reason. After 28 years of business, this store has no doubt seen some great novels grace its shelves.
Organized by category for non-fiction, and alphabetically for fiction in the literature section, this place has a wealth of interesting titles on a variety of topics. For book collectors, this may be a good place to visit – finds like a first edition copy of William Faulkner’s The Town have even turned up here. A quiet reprieve from the busy streets of the downtown core, this warm place has a couple chairs to sit in, records for sale, and of course a bargain book section.
The owner, Bernard “Bernie” Wolff, prides himself on the selection – this is not one of those books stores that sells whatever it finds. Odyssey boasts their collection of “select second-hand books,” including those that are “scholarly, general, [or] rare.” They make house calls, but I suggest you check this one out in person.
3255 St. Jacques, Metro Lionel-Groulx
With its store name in bright yellow letters on a red storefront, Pages certainly catches one’s attention. Venture inside and you find a store with personality. Relatively new, the philosophy at Pages is relaxed and welcoming – you can trade used books for store credit, and the owner, Tim O’Melia, is not one to discriminate.
Anything worth reading has a home here. This place has also taken on a different role than other, more traditional bookstores: it serves as a community space, featuring fairly regular shows and occasional poetry readings. Thursday nights host a philosophical discussion group, and tea and coffee available every day. Pages is filled with found objects that add to its unique character – a model of an 18th-century Spanish frigate sits on a wooden trellis suspended over the cash, and the art on display is for sale. The mismatched furniture is cozy, and the conversation is good. A charming place with a friendly owner.
4800 Henri-Julien, Metro Mont-Royal
In the Plateau for 20 years, Librairie Henri-Julien is a book collector’s dream. Not surprisingly, most of the clientele at this used bookstore are hobbyists. The majority of the titles are in French but there is a good spattering of those in English. If you’re interested in French authors, classics, books on the Second World War, armaments, or philosophy, visit Librairie Henri-Julien.
The oldest book in the store is a 17th-century Dutch hardback on the history of Amsterdam, engravings included. The walls are covered, floor to ceiling, with books of all kinds; one can barely make out the baby-pink paint on the walls. Every nook and cranny has been utilized. Like something out of a movie, with opera music playing, a rocking chair, and a friendly owner, Librairie Henri-Julien is the quintessential used bookstore.
225 Saint-Viateur O., Parc 80 bus
Owned and managed by S.W. Welch, this eponymous store mainly features books in English. The owner is attracted to an assortment of literary objects, including books with unique covers, ones he has never seen before, and uncommon versions of classics.
Well-stocked and great for casual browsing, this Mile End bookstore is frequented mainly by regulars – maybe you should consider becoming one too. Sections are indicated by animated drawings throughout the store. With its comfortable chairs, leather couch, and bright lighting, S. W. Welch is well-organized while still maintaining a large selection.
The film section is worth mentioning – when I went, it even contained a published copy of the Ghost World screenplay. While the layout is reminiscent of more commercial stores, S.W. Welch caters to many tastes.