For stalwart book lovers who continue to prefer pages of bound parchment to electronic books, the Weeklyhas devised a list of the top bookstores–both used and new–around the Island. Nothing beats the smell of a book, the sound of turning pages or the satisfying feeling of last sentences.
Just because this bookstore specializes in left-wing literature (i.e. communism, socialism, civil rights, etc.) doesn’t mean that’s all they sell. In fact, Revolution Books has one of the most varied selections on Oahu, featuring both new and used books in subjects ranging from poetry to local Hawaiian fiction to military history. Politics, however, is their specialty, reflected in the subdivision of genres like Chinese politics from 1950-1975; Marxist classics and the Bush years. The used book section has works from notable authors on both non-fiction and fiction subjects, and they cost only $1 or $2, depending on the size.
Bottom Line: Revolution Books is an intellectual’s bookstore. The selection might not be the largest on the island, but it sure features the best of the best in each subject.
It’s hard to find anything bad to say about Jelly’s. With stores in both Honolulu and Aiea, Jelly’s is the Mecca for used media, books, DVDs, cassettes, records, VHS tapes, and yes, even guitars. Despite the grandiose size of the stores, the books somehow manage to stay in alphabetical order which makes the entire shopping experience that much more enjoyable.
Bottom Line: The alphabetized categories and interesting genres (i.e. Hollywood biographies, skinheads and football, addiction/recovery, sci-fi by both series and author) make sleuthing here both fun and easy, but be forewarned: you’ll be tempted to spend hours here.
Rainbow Books and Records
This tiny store, located in the mini mall across from Nijiya Market on University Avenue, is a maze of tall bookshelves and stacked boxes of used books, records, DVDs, and even magazines. Although some sections are labeled with hand-written signs, most books are scattered, incorrectly placed, or haphazardly filed into an open cardboard box. The books themselves aren’t poorly priced, averaging about half the original price, and are in good condition.
Bottom Line: There’s no denying you’ll find good reads here, you just have to be prepared to search.
Borders and Barnes and Noble
It’s hard to feel pity for mega bookstores that have put so many small stores out of business, but the fact is that the success (or failure) of one bookstore can have a domino effect on the book industry as a whole. Therefore, even if you are a strong proponent of specialized bookstores, it wouldn’t hurt to start shopping at these larger bookstores, if only to keep them out of bankruptcy. Unlike many of the other bookstores featured in this list, these stores only carry new books, but they have the most extensive selection around.
Bottom Line: This is your best bet if you have a particular author or book in mind. Plus, coffee shops are always connected to the store, making these great places to study.
Granted, Savers isn’t solely a bookstore, but it’s got a darn good selection of books. The books, like the other items in the store, are both contemporary and used; however, they are in great condition with no signs of use or wear. With subjects ranging from religion, romance and mystery to westerns, biographies and health, Savers truly is a saver, with most prices no higher than $2.99.
Bottom Line: You’ll find low prices with plenty of books for all interests and ages, as well as and the added convenience of other departments–clothing, shoes, electronics–to peruse.
Gecko Books and Comics
Although they sell a small assortment of paperback spy, mystery, and sci-fi novels, the pieces de resistance here are their comic books and graphic novels. Prices range from 69-cents to top-dollar collector’s issues, and they also carry trading cards, board games, clothing and stuffed animals.
Bottom Line: If you’re into comics, graphic novels, illustrated books or cartoons, then Gecko’s got you covered. Plus, the late-night Coffee Talk café is around the corner, giving you a great excuse to buy something to read while sipping that chai latte.
Book Ends is everything a neighborhood bookstore should be and more. Quaint, comfortable, and clean, Book Ends has a welcoming environment with ample selections of new, used, rare, and collectible books. In fact, customers are encouraged to make themselves at home by curling up in one of the many cushioned chairs, benches, and love seats scattered throughout the store.
Bottom Line: If mega bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble give you the creeps, then head here. The knowledgeable staff and cozy corners are sure to make your book buying experience a happy one.
In addition to housing a plethora of all things Hawaiian and Pacific Islander–from bath products and clothing to music and ceramics– Native Books/ Na Mea Hawaii is also a great source for literature. As expected, the books tie back to the theme of the store, with categories as diverse as ocean, fishing, marine life, and plant medicine to pre-contact Hawaiian history, local fiction, contemporary Hawaiian history, and even Hawaiian language dictionaries.
Bottom Line: A great store to head to if you like Hawaiiana-themed books and supporting local businesses.
Museum Gift Shops
Museum gift shops aren’t the first places that come to mind in terms of bookstores, but when it comes to books on art, art history, and culture, these shops are king. For books on art, craft design, textiles, and art genres, head to the Honolulu Academy Arts. At Bishop Museum you can find books from the Bishop Museum Press, the state’s first publisher, with over 1,200 published titles to date. Literature on the missions and antiquities, as well a number of books for the keiki, such as traditional folklore, can be found at both the Mission House Museum and the Hawaii State Art Museum.
Bottom Line: Bring the museum experience home with you by picking up a book at their gift shop after oohing and awing your way through the latest exhibit.