Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Books and Buns

Several weeks ago, I received an email from someone who reads my blog.  She was wondering which second-hand bookshops I could recommend in Toronto.  It then came to my attention that bookshops carrying new were my usual haunts when in the city.  It was my responsibility to do some research and the sooner the better!  Saturday was to be the nicest day of the weekend so R and I grabbed a bagel and a tea/coffee and off we went.  Our first stop was BMV Books, I had read that there was a large supply of remainders and second-hand titles but that some of the staff were a bit on the rude side...hmmm.  Finding a copy of Angel by Elizabeth Taylor made my day, further finds by Rebecca West, Rose Macaulay and Elizabeth von Arnim had me beaming.  Then I asked a clerk where the Art Deco books were.  'In the Arts section' came her dry, unenthusiastic reply.  'No shit, Sherlock' was what I wanted to say but instead I replied 'That's lovely!'

Driving to another area of Toronto we stopped at The Book Exchange, where I found a copy of I'm Not Complaining by Ruth Adams.  I know nothing about her but the characters in this book consist of a promiscuous Jenny, a communist Freda and a spinsterish Miss Jones.  Yes, please!  Right next door was Dencan Books...oh my goodness.  R wondered if the collapsing shelves with books spilled all over the window display was some sort of artsy statement.  Cautiously opening the door, we were greeted with the overwhelming smell of mold.  It was total chaos with piles of books littering the floor, there was barely a path to allow any meandering at all.  Bravely we began to browse the ridiculously stuffed shelves and after a few minutes, R called me over.  He was checking for some authors and found...Dickens, Dickens, Dickens, Beginner Accounting, Dickens, Dickens...and so on.  It was definitely time for a change of scenery so we drove off to find a bakery but I swear I coughed mold spores for several minutes afterwards.

The Hot Oven Bakery was just the place for rest and refreshment and oh, the gorgeous aromas floating in the air, way better than mold!  R ordered some cookies to go, I chose the Empire cookies (the large ones) and he decided on chocolate chip.  Then we munched on cinnamon buns and sipped our hot drinks while we chatted and thought about what we might like to try the next time we stop by. 

All too soon it was time for the drive back to Burlington.  My research mission was pretty successful but I am quite sure that there is more work still to be done.  And if you've read any of the Viragos I found please let me know what you thought! 


  1. Oh I love Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, Darlene, but it does look like you got a great haul. I used to live on Charles Street (?) very close to Yonge and Bloor in Toronto in the early 80s, and I'm sure I picked up my Elizabeth von Arnim Viragos from a new bookshop (very big for those days) there.

  2. I want a cinnamon bun! They look delicious! Well on my one brief trip to Toronto I clearly missed all of the bookshops. You got a great haul! I have three of those Viragos and have read only Angel, which I thought was marvellous. Enjoy!

  3. Hmmm... cinnamon buns :-)
    I don't usually have a good experience with second-hand bookshops. I feel overwhelmed by those that cram their shelves any-old-how, out of order, books in piles on the floor and in boxes with little respect for the books. And yes... the mold, the damp, urgh! I sometimes just give up and feel that I must have left behind several treasures but I really can't stand the thought of reading each and every spine - cramped and uncomfortable - just to (usually) leave disappointed.
    If I won the lottery, I'd be tempted to open up my own second-hand bookshop where shelves would be clearly labelled and everything would be in order... and maybe I'd throw in a coffee shop corner - just to show them how it should be done :-)
    Dickens and accounting... brilliant!

  4. What a wonderful outing. I loved Angel and I loved Love, both read years ago and now you have me thinking it's time for a re-read.

  5. I've only read Angel and even have that very same edition, also found in a secondhand shop in Canada. (Calgary only seems to have one used bookshop that carries Viragos, but at least it's well organized and there's no mold! Now that I've moved closer to Edmonton, I'll have to scout out the stores there...) As everyone else says, it's great. Those cinnamon buns and the other books look marvelous.

  6. Now that is my kind of research :) K x

  7. This is a wonderful post and what wonderful bookshops you found (well, apart from the Dickens & Mould shop! Spelling of mold differs here, of course. Well, it would, wouldn't it, har, har! If we can stick in a "u" then we do!) But oh, those cakes and biscuits (I can't bring myself to call 'em "cookies". I tease my Canadian friend about this - I say "cookie is what you do with them, biscuit is what comes out of the oven!"
    Seriously, what a great haul of books - not read any of them but have von Arnim's Love on the shelf, just
    waiting for me to choose it as my next read.

  8. That sounds fantastic - those buns look absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS! What are Empire Cookies? You did well finding those lovely green VMCs, I thought they were supposed to be hard to find on your side of the word! I can't quite see the title of the Elizabeth von Arnim - c an't remember if you've read any of her but I think she is up your street! I have not yet come across Told by an idiot although I have liked some of Rose Macaulay's books...

  9. Well done! I'm now annoyed, as I left I'm Not Complaining on a shelf in Edinburgh, because I was trying to be conscious about having to carry everything back (not that you'd be able to tell, from my haul!) I'd especially love the mouldy shop, but that's because I adore ramshackle bookshops...

    Told By An Idiot was the first Rose Macaulay I bought, but I've still not read it, even though I have read and really enjoyed Crewe Train, Keeping Up Appearances, and Dangerous Ages. I didn't care much for Staying With Relations.

  10. ramblingfancy, Elizabeth Taylor is sublime isn't she! And should you ever pop back to TO and want to meet please drop me a line!

    bookssnob, These buns were really nice! Usually they're drizzled with a ton of icing which makes them way too sweet for me. It's always nice to dig around a bookshop but considering you went back to the likes of Charing Cross Road you didn't miss out on too much. And there's next time!

    Rochester Reader, You have that lottery dream too? Sometimes I actually go blank in a bookshop because I'm so excited to be there! It's such a sickness isn't it.

    FleurFisher, Oh good! I couldn't leave the von Arnim behind after reading such good things about her during Virago Reading Week. And Angel really seems to get people boiling over so I can't wait to dig into that one!

    Carolyn, Now that sounds like a great adventure, hopefully you find at least one shop that is well-stocked with your favourites! And I must tell you, I am so excited about your Bowen read-along!

    kristina, Nothing but hardship and sacrifice but I was willing *snort*. Enjoy your day!

    galant, During a Richard Bacon podcast the other day they talked about the difference between cookies and biscuits. Do you think I can remember...not a chance!

    verity, The Empire cookies are the ones with white icing and a red dot (top shelf of the display case). They are to die for...really! Most local second-hand shops carry contemporary fiction but I've been scouring for shops that are more literature based and voila! I couldn't be happier to finally be spotting some Viragos. And the von Arnim is 'Love', glad you think I'll like her!

    StuckInABook, The Adams does sound good doesn't it...well, there's a reason to head back to E one day soon!

    This is my first Macaulay as well! It's my mission this year to experience as many new authors as possible and really...that cover art is quite irresistible isn't it!

  11. Thank you! I'm in Toronto as well and am becoming frustrated with the library not having copies of books that I want to read. I checked out the BMV near where I work but they're small and didn't have what I was looking for. I know there are a bunch of used book stores on Yonge Street just south of Bloor, and one on Spadina near Harbord (sorry I don't know the names of any of them) but I haven't checked them it a while... It may be time for a little excursion.

  12. Oh the hardship, a bookstore-seeking mission, with Empire cookies on the side.

    I used to be good with knowing many of the shops in Toronto, but there are fewer now, and I'll admit falling prey to internet book searches.

    There's a small and quite good shop near me, on Kingston Road -- The Great Escape. They've been there for years and often have exactly what I'm looking for. Even if I don't know I'm looking for it. And you could come by tea after.

    I really should do a more in-person look around at our bookshops. Thanks for the nudge.

  13. Naughty, naughty, naughty. First Simon, then Verity and now you! Plus you have sweets (in the form of food) to make me envious! :) Angel is wonderful (though Angel is quite a creation--wait til you meet her)--as for the others...I'm waiting to hear your thoughts! :) Sounds like a perfect day (expcept for the rude clerk).

  14. motheretc, Thank you for passing on the locations of some other places to try! I share your frustration when keying in the titles of books I really want to read and coming up empty at the library. But, I do realize their budget must be spread in such a way as to appeal to the masses. It does make those finds in the second-hand shops all the sweeter!

    Susan, That sounds wonderful! I had a look on the web and that shop is in the Beach, right? There is every chance we'll be out that way come the warmer weather!

    Danielle, I blame the cold weather...you have to do something to get out of the house! As for Angel...I can't wait to find out what she's like. This one will have to go to the top of my tbr list. Thanks for your input!

  15. I am always struck by the huge difference between the Book Exchange and Dencan Books (both in my hood). The one is delightful and organized, I can't be bothered with the other. As you said the smell of damp basement really puts me off. How does that store manage to pay rent..?

    One of the stores on Yonge is Elliot's Books, west side just north of Wellesley. Can't be more helpful than to say the other is further north.

    If you are in the mood for it you might try the college booksales at UofT in the fall. Victoria's is around Word on the Street, Trinity's is toward the end of October and University college's is somewhere in between. I'd be happy to send you exact dates next fall, as long as I remember (hah) or if you would remind me....

  16. Renata, Hi! and thanks for stopping by! We wondered the same thing, Dencan Books can't do any more than $10 in business a day, surely.

    Thanks for the heads up on the rest! If you remember, and I will try as well, please do send me an email as a reminder...thanks again.