Have you seen me (used)?
My cookbook library occupies three bookshelves, but it's really only about half my target size -- I constantly find myself looking for certain classics (more Claudia Roden, Julie Sahni, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, Patricia Wells, Deborah Madison) or books that would flush out my references on various regional cuisines. I don't need a book to be new or hot, I need it to be good. However, there are several problems with searching for used cookbooks:
Have you seen me (used)?
1. People hold on to the best cookbooks. They do not read them and then decide to pass them along to a friend or sell them back to a store in order to acquire new books.
2. Therefore, the price of good cookbooks -- even New York Times bestsellers -- depreciates much more slowly online than fiction does.
3. The cooking sections of most used book stores in Seattle are overwhelmed by books on one-pot meals, vegetarian cooking, and diet fads come and gone, as well as compilations from Junior Leagues, churches, and other women's groups -- fascinating but not very helpful.
I'd say three out of four of my trips to used book stores result in purchases, and I don't really have time to enjoy the hunt.
For a while, I was finding the best deals on used cookbooks (say, $3 for the book, $5 for shipping) through Bookfinder.com. But a couple months ago, Bookfinder led me to A1Books, and an A1Books vendor screwed me out of $10. Though I filed several complaints with their customer service department, I didn't receive a refund for a book that never arrived. Bookfinder/A1Books, screw you. It was time to start auditioning bookstores again. I've been hitting one or two a weekend for the past month.
If I were outfitting a kitchen and needed a few inexpensive, reliable basic cookbooks, my first choice would be Abraxias Books in Ballard, whose selection it took me a full half-hour to skim; I found a number of my favorite cookbooks there. But I've been looking for a place that carries slightly more recent, more diverse collection.
I was down in Southcenter today, eating noodles at Bai Tong (more on that in a week or two), and on the way out I stopped in at the Half-Price Books store in the same strip mall. Jackpot. Not only does the store stock up on top-drawer remainders -- I picked up a copy of the previous edition of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything for $11 -- but I spotted books on those shelves that I rarely ever see in used bookstores. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes one and two. The Oxford Companion to Food (first edition, still great). A couple of baking reference books that, had I not imposed an embargo on new ones, I would have picked up. It's a used bookstore, so the selection's scattershot, but it's the best one I've found here. Let me know if you have another favorite -- I almost promise I won't write about it.
Half Price Books, 16828 Southcenter Pkwy, Tukwila, 575-3173.