Best Used Bookstore 2015 | The Bookshop | Goods & Services | Phoenix

You can measure the worth of a good bookstore — especially a used bookstore — by the way it smells. If the powerful, comforting smell of aged paper and musty hardcovers doesn't immediately overwhelm you upon entering, you might as well just turn around and leave. If we had it our way, we'd bottle the smell of The Bookshop. With its tall wooden shelves completely filled with everything from beloved classics to the newest releases, corners perfect for curling up and reading a book from start to finish, and old Persian rugs that make the shop feel homey, this space just north of the bustling intersection at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road is basically the definition of cozy.

Our Holy Grail list of hard-to-find books is a short one, but it includes a couple of impossible items. Where, we wondered, would we ever find a first-edition copy of Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages, with the dust jacket, for less than a hundred clams? The Internet was no help. And would we ever cross off our list the rag-bound Ozma of Oz we'd been coveting for decades? We couldn't afford to go to our graves without these two titles, but we also couldn't afford to pay what most sellers (when they had copies, which was rare) were asking. Thanks to the courteous and intelligent antiquarians at By the Book, we can now die happy. Not only do we have these two rare titles in our collection now, but we also have the knowledge that, right here in our own town, we have a bookshop that will relentlessly search for what we covet until they find it. And we'll be able to afford it, because they listen when we talk book budgets. Filled with rare and unusual titles, this tidy Camelback storefront also buys book collections, offers free search services, and sends out a cool catalog several times a year. Hard-to-find, out-of-print, and rare books are By the Book.

The other day we heard the Peppermint Rainbow singing "Will You Be Staying After Sunday?" on an oldies station, and we suddenly remembered we had to have it. Now! Rather than hitting the Internet or bothering to scour iTunes for an MP3 of this kind of vinyl obscurity, we jumped in the car and headed over to Record Revival. The shop had two copies, natch. We bought the mono version and, while we were at it, scored a dead-mint copy of J.D. Souther's Black Rose, a couple of different discs by the Butterfield Blues Band, and a sealed copy of the Wind in the Willows LP on Capitol. After burning through an hour talking arcane vinyl trivia with various staff members (and making plans to come back to rummage through that nice, clean bin full of 180-gram "new" vinyl), we ran home to play our groovy new old records — and to think about how happy we are to have another good, solid vinyl shop in town.

Readers Choice: Zia Record Exchange

We started going to Revolver for vinyl — the selection of vintage rock and jazz LPs there is amazing — but ended up relying on this downtown record shop (now with a second location in Tempe) for our digital music needs, too. It started when we couldn't find a domestic copy of Blondie's first album on CD. A quick phone call to Revolver revealed not only this apparently hard-to-find midline, but a surprisingly refined selection of rock, easy listening, and country CDs. Ricky Skaggs' third album used to be on our compact disc Holy Grail list, but no more — we found it at Revolver. We also found friendly, knowledgeable help and willingness by Revolver's staff to seek out the difficult-to-find imports we can't seem to score on eBay or find in an MP3 file anywhere.

Readers choice: Zia Record Exchange

Kitsch and craft meet quasi-creepy at Mill Avenue's Moonage Tempe. Owned by Kelli Vanyek and Tyler Greene, the boutique is filled with locally made jewelry, art, and home goods. It's the perfect pit stop for bolstering your unironic crystal collection that's just a gemstone's throw from ASU's Tempe campus. Also up for grabs are Two Trees Botanicals animal figurine planters, artsy cow skulls by Supreme Souls, cutesy cross-stitch works, and Southwest-inspired jewelry from All the Tiny Pieces. It's kinda like the home and accessories section of Urban Outfitters — if the chain store had a reverence for makers and artists.

Readers Choice: Hippie Gypsy

MADE Art Boutique has been around for a decade. Traditionally, 10-year anniversaries call for gifts of tin and aluminum, but that sounds crappy given the shop's status as a Roosevelt Row mainstay. Perhaps it would be more fitting, then, to pop in and pick out a few things from the bungalow store's stock. You'll find assorted handmade cards, Alex Ozers' jewelry, and SighFoo wool toys. Aside from gifts for yourself, the shop spotlights rotating small-works exhibitions on its mantel, with fresh art going up from creatives like Roy Wasson Valle and Laura Spalding Best every Third Friday. Happy birthday to MADE. Happy shopping to us.

Readers choice: Bud's Glass Joint

11th Monk3y Industries is emblematic of Grand Avenue's decidedly organic appeal. On the sidewalk outside the shop's brick walls and mint-colored metal barred windows, the demand to "Get excited and make things" is spray-painted in white. It's a philosophy that's evident in the small shop. Run by multifaceted maker Ruben Gonzales, the shop carries his screen-printed wearables like T-shirts and snapbacks. But Gonzales isn't some run-of-the-mill shirt purveyor. He's the go-to guy for lifestyle brands Baby Teith and Lookwood51, in addition to consistently taking up new ways of making things — whether it's metalworking or embroidery. Looking for an added dose of handmade goodness? Swing by on Third Fridays for rotating pop-up gallery shows from The Lab.

Readers Choice: ThirdSpace

It's hard to think of a reason to not go to Scottsdale Quarter. The North Scottsdale shopping center keeps adding high-end shops that have us trekking north more often than we'd like to admit. The mileage is worth it for access to West Elm, Intermix, Vince, Restoration Hardware, and Suitsupply — stores with serious style that can't be found anywhere else in the Valley. And we head to the Quarter for more than just retail. The open-air complex is also home to a Drybar, one of the few Dolce spas, and what feels like an extra-large Sephora. For refueling, Press Coffee is the easiest go-to, but sit-down places including True Food Kitchen and Dominick's Steakhouse round out the upper echelon of dining options.

We've all been there. It's 2 p.m. the day before Halloween and you've just gotten a last-minute invitation to a costume party. You were planning to stay home and pass out candy this year, but now you need a costume that looks as though you'd planned it for weeks. Obviously, you're headed to Easley's Fun Shop. With the best selection of adult and children's costumes in the Valley, Easley's has just the thing for you. Maybe you decided to be crafty and make your own costume this year? Stop by Easley's to get some killer makeup that will put your look over the top. Of course, Easley's is there for more than just your Halloween needs. Got a '70s-themed birthday party next week? You know where to go.

Whether you aspire to do stand-up or simply want to step out of your comfort zone, Torch Theatre is your ticket for taking socialization to the next level. In addition to serving up its own weekly shows, the small Phoenix improv space offers a variety of drop-in classes and eight-week courses that range from beginner to advanced. Butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, you'll find all walks of life learning to let it all out on the stage. While learning to be funny doesn't come free, students do get an all-access pass to the Torch's regularly scheduled programming to see how professional antics are done. Meeting new people, making stuff up, and marking another activity off your bucket list? Sounds a heck of a lot better than speed-dating, if you ask us.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of