A booklover’s guide to Peterborough’s bookstores


Photo from Thea’s Books and Violins by Jenny Fisher.

With six used bookstores located conveniently in the downtown core, Peterborough is a great place for book lovers looking to build their own personal libraries on the cheap. This weekly column will be a guide with weekly picks and suggestions for literary treasure hunters.

Thea’s Books and Violins (Water street):

This place looks exactly like you’d expect a used bookstore to look if it were to appear in a movie or in some urban fantasy story.

Located in the science fiction section you’ll find William Hope Hodgson’s novel of high seas horror The Boats of Glen Carrig ($7). Hodgson is one of Lovecraft’s more underrated contemporaries and a pioneer of modern horror and speculative fiction. Hodgson doesn’t come around Peterborough often so its always great to snag a copy while you can.

In the foreign literature in translation section you’ll find The Makioka Sisters ($10), a novel about WW2 Japan by acclaimed 20th century author Junichuro Tanizaki. There is also one of my all time favourite short story collections: Tadeusz Borowski’s haunting and powerful This Way For The Gas, Ladies And Gentleman ($8) which is based on his experiences during the Holocaust.

Dixon’s (Water Street):

While a great place to go for comic books, personally I tend to gravitate to Dixon’s for low cost works in the Western canon, cheap Canlit, and small but inexpensive selection of contemporary literary fiction.

On a carousel near the classics section sits Cormac McCarthy (author of The Road, No Country For Old Men) with All The Pretty Horses and The Crossing ($5.95 each). Meanwhile, over in the Canlit section look for Anne Hebert’s Kamouraska ($2.50, multiple copies). Set in 19th century French-Canada, this novel of a love triangle and murder stylistically recalls Faulkner and presages Munro. It is a great reminder of the depth of Canadian women’s writing.

Speaking of which, you’ll also find famed Canadian painter Emily Carr’s autobiography: Growing Pains ($3.95).

Scholar’s Bookstore (Water Street):

A short detached shelf near the fiction section contains a great collection of folk and fairy tales called, appropriately Folk and Fairy Tales 3rd Edition ($12).

Personally, however, my favourite place to browse in Scholar’s is a carousel of $3 books in the back that always has a few great selections in it. Look for Virginia Woolf’s Between The Acts and Ehrhart’s Carrying The Darkness: The Poetry Of The Vietnam War. For history buffs this carousel also has a really great selection of Penguin paperback history books (particularly on English history).

Books And Things (Water Street):

Look to your left as you enter and you’ll find Conan: The Barbarian creator and legendary fantasy writer Robert E. Howard in droves each marked at $2.

Also make sure to stop by the Canlit fiction towards the back. I don’t know how they do it but Books and Things is always well-stocked with selections from Canada’s first, only, and long-overdue Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. Selected Stories ($12) is there in hardcover and you can also find paperback editions of Moons Of Jupiter, Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You, Friend Of My Youth, and The Progress Of Love ($4 each).

On the side of that shelf, you’ll find a carousel. Check its bottom racks for Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s brilliant piece of journalistic non-fiction News Of A Kidnapping ($10.50) about the series of kidnappings in the early ‘90’s by the Medellin Cartel and narco-terrorist Pablo Escobar in Marquez’s native Colombia.

Mark Jokinen’s (George Street near King):

One of my favourite things about Mark’s is the extensive and well-organized selection of World Literature, conveniently organized by linguistic and geographic regions. With a sale of ‘buy two get a third for free’ (the free book being the lowest priced) now is a great time to partake in the great ‘dialogue of World Literature’ that Goethe envisioned.

There is one section in particular with shelves dedicated to (in order from the top)- German, Nordic, Italian, African, Indian, Arabic and Others, Chinese and Japanese Literature(s) (note: the Indian section should probably be read as ‘Indian and Subcontinent’ and the African as ‘African and Caribbean’). This is probably my favourite nook to browse in the city and is always a goldmine.

In the Nordic Lit. section find Sigrid Undset’s (first female winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928) historical fiction trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter (all three parts together for $15). Set against the backdrop of the Scandinavian Middle Ages, this trilogy was renown for both its stark realism in its depiction of the era and its frank depictions of sex and, in particular, female sexuality.

Below, in the African Lit. section, sits West Indes writer Robert Antoni’s My Grandmother’s Erotic Folk Tales ($9.50).

Knotaknew (George Street and Sherbrooke Street crossing):

Knotaknew has a fantastic collection of Speculative Fiction, although you may have to do some searching as rows are often stacked in front of other rows. Around 20 different titles from Isaac Aasimov are availble for $4 or less (most of them for $3.50) and you’ll also find Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide ($7.50) stacked on top the shelf.

In its fiction section look, fans of the Netflix series will find Piper Kerman’s Orange Is The New Black ($7.50).

There’s also a really great section of paperbacks near the cash register. There is a really great (and small) copy of Nigerian magical realist Ben Okri’s Birds Of Heaven ($0.95) which is about 60 pages of aphorisms and essays on life and literature.