Saturday, December 09, 2006

Day 9: Wheaton's Best Kept Secret

One of the benefits that comes with moving is, you get to discover new areas and amenities. Having attended college in Northern Virginia and given that my parents still live in Fairfax, I'm quite familiar with the Northern Virginia/Fairfax County area--from Springfield to Tysons Corner, Rosslyn to Chantilly.

When I lived downtown on 14th and S Streets NW, I knew where all the amenities for urban life were. And, most importantly, I knew the quickest route out of town and into the States for access to big box stores that haven't really existed in the city until recently.

Now that I'm living in upper Northwest, I do a lot of my shopping in Maryland. I cover an area that spans from Wisconsin Avenue in the west to Route 1 in the east and from Wheaton in the north to Silver Spring in the south.

In between all of the regular shopping at retailers large and mom-and-pops small, you occasionally find a gem that defies all the laws of retail theory.

Case in point: The Friends Bookstores.

No, we're not talking Quakers here. We're talking the Montgomery County Library system and its two bookstores. In particular, I'm talking about the bookstore in Wheaton, 'cause the one is Rockville is further than I wish to go.

Tucked into the basement of the Wheaton Regional Library is a cavernous corner devoted to the selling and donation of books--young and old.

Within its narrow walkways and high shelves you can find everything from a 1920 printing of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn as part of a collection of works by various writers to copies of National Geographic book series, from case bound copies of William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full. There are encyclopedia sets and special collections, children's books and Reader's Digest condensed volumes.

There are mystery/thriller and trashy romances, history and poli-sci, cook books and career manuals, travel guides and map books, language primers and textbooks. You name a genre or an author and you're likely to find something you'll be happy with.

But here's the best part: the prices.

You can pick up a box of books and still spend less than $20. Most case bound books are $1.00. The paperbacks are $1.50 - $2.00 (haven't quite figured out why these are more than the case bound.) All of the books are in relatively good condition, which is important if you have hang ups about grimy, I-don't-know-who's-sneezed-in-it books like I do.

If you love books, but you don't always love the hole buying books can put in your budget, check out the Friend's Bookstore at the Wheaton Regional Library. And if you have books you don't want to throw away (perish the thought!) or you don't want to give to Goodwill, you can donate your tomes to the bookstore. It's tax deductible, by the way.

11701 Georgia Avenue (cross street is Arcola)
Wheaton, MD
T: (240) 777-0688

Mon-Thurs 10.00A-8.30P
Friday 10.00A-4.30P
Saturday 9:00A-4:30P
Sunday 1:00P-4:30P

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