Best Book Sale 2023 | VNSA Used Book Sale | Goods & Services | Phoenix

Some people look forward to Christmas each year, or their birthday, or the start of football season. We mark our calendar for a weekend in February, because that's when the VNSA Used Book Sale comes around. For two days, bibliophiles and book dealers from around the country head to the Arizona State Fairgrounds to browse hundreds of thousands of books, DVD, CDs, records, games, puzzles and more. Prices are fairly reasonable and get even better on Sunday, when whatever's left over is half price. There's no cost to get into the building, although the fairgrounds do charge to park. Proceeds from the event benefit a rotating list of local charities, which helps us justify leaving the sale each year with a shopping cart full of stuff.

When you walk into Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, you're greeted by friendly staff, tables of fiction and nonfiction bestsellers and, of course, the hard-to-miss First Draft Book Bar. You can grab a book, sip some wine, visit with fellow readers and writers and move about the aisles discovering your next compelling read. Both Changing Hands Bookstores welcome guest authors, hold workshops and have book clubs every month. The vibe in both locations is one of community and open exchange of ideas. The Tempe location has been a Valley mainstay for 50 years, and with the addition of the Phoenix location in the last nine years, we're all lucky to have two Changing Hands outposts to find just the right read.

Bibliophiles and bookworms of the Valley, you've got a new favorite haunt: Books on 7th Ave is a hidden gem that's off the beaten path but well worth seeking out. Tucked into an out-of-the-way Sunnyslope building marked with the word "BOOKS," the focus of the long-running retailer is as straightforward as its signage. Inside are row after endless row of towering bookshelves boasting every kind of title imaginable. Fiction and nonfiction. Paperbacks and hardcovers. Recent releases and out-of-print gems. There's also an extensive collection of true crime tales, a bounty of biographies, dozens of romance novels and pulp-filled sections of sci-fi and fantasy. Owner Mary Anne Ramirez, who founded the business in 1990, keeps the store's 200,000-plus books organized with assistance from family members and an amiable staff. They're happy to help you find something or just let you browse aimlessly for hours while exploring every nook and cranny. If you've got the time, they've got the tomes.

Bookstores that offer refreshments aren't anything new. But there's something special about Grassrootz Bookstore & Juice bar in Central Phoenix. Grassrootz is a Black-owned business, and the solid selection of new and used books cover topics like hip-hop culture, Black history and fiction by Black authors. The reading area with comfortable chairs and coffee-table books beckons visitors to sit for a while and flip through a tome while relaxing with a beverage such as a cup of coffee or a bottle of locally made juice (the pineapple ginger lemonade is a favorite). But in addition to the books, drinks and art for sale, Grassrootz is a place for the community; the store hosts everything from children's storytimes and live music events to lectures and the popular Chessmaster Sundays.

Shopping for vinyl records is a fun hobby for some folks. Others — well, let's call them what they are: obsessed — will spend hours digging to find treasures from coveted collectibles to quirky surprises. Whichever camp you're in, The 'In' Groove is a place where you can do some hunting. The shop's inventory includes an ever-revolving rotation of new and used records in numerous genres and all price points. There are four-figure gems behind the counter, but we like to shop the crates on the ground underneath the bins, where used records in less-than-pristine condition can be had for a song. The 'In' Groove is our favorite Record Store Day destination; they open early and stock all the offerings. Beyond records, the store also offers a selection of equipment, like turntables and speakers, and you can check out their stock online if you prefer to shop without leaving home.

Tirion Boan

In the market for a morning coffee? What about an elevated lunch? Is a bottle of wine more your speed? Or maybe you're hunting for a hard-to-find vinyl record. Well, Central Records, located on — you guessed it — Central Avenue, has got you covered. This little spot is an all-day hangout perfect in the morning, afternoon or evening. Settle into one of the wooden booths with your laptop to get some work done, or sit around a table and share a bottle of wine with friends. At night, a disco ball spins and the lighting gets groovy. Behind the square coffee counter and bar, there's a sound room where DJs spin vinyl and host online shows for Recordbar Radio, upping the audiophile nature of this musician-owned downtown space.

What doesn't Zia Records have? Every location of this shopper's paradise is packed with enough goodies to cause the heads of music lovers, movie fans and pop culture junkies to spin. You're guaranteed to find CDs and plenty of 'em in the stores' prime mix of shoppable goods. Face it — although every song you want to hear is a finger tap away online, compact discs may never go out of style, and according to many audiophiles, that's a good thing. They say the sound quality, due to their higher bit-rate, beats streaming tracks any day of the week. Some enthusiasts enjoy having something to hold onto with artwork, lyrics and credits as part of the whole package. Whatever the reason you're still rocking out to your favorite tunes using this format, Zia Records is the ultimate CD acquisition destination, as they've got countless new and used discs in every genre.

Need to beef up your vintage board game collection? Head to a Bookmans location, and you could see a Boggle or Candyland box on one of the well-stocked shelves. In addition to games, this shopper's mecca has a vast, ever-changing array of used books, music, comics and groovy goods. Collectibles, craft supplies, video games and musical instruments are among the numerous wares you'll peruse. Bookmans keeps its stores filled with these cool things, thanks to you. Bring in your books, toys and other needed items — the website helps you determine what they're looking for — and exchange them for trade or cash. Go home with some extra money, or get some fun new toys.

Think comic books are strictly for nerds and neckbeards? Check those misconceptions at the door of Ash Avenue Comics & Books, bub, as the popular Tempe shop's diverse patronage illustrates otherwise. Owner Drew Sullivan prefers his place to be a "judgment-free zone" where anyone and everyone can experience the joys of the sequential art form in its many formats. It's one of the reasons why Ash Avenue is the best comics store in town. Here are a few more: Sullivan showcases a wide range of indie, underground, self-published, small-press and creator-owned titles alongside racks stocked with single issues, ongoing series and trade paperbacks from leading publishers like Marvel, DC, Image and IDW. Elsewhere in the shop's voluminous, well-organized selection are YA comics, manga, graphic novels and fanzines, as well as a wall of cool collectibles and merch (Coop skateboards! "Goonies" action figures!) that only an establishment like Ash Avenue would carry. No wonder the place draws a crowd.

Here's a factoid joystick junkies can file away in their brains alongside the Konami code: Fallout Games' impressive selection is so vast and laden with rarities that it's a key plot point in a movie. True story. In 2020's "Max Reload and the Nether Blasters," the titular character comes across an ultra-rare (and ultimately cursed) ColecoVision cartridge at Fallout that unleashes an ancient malevolent force upon the world. Sounds farfetched? Some of the more fantastical elements, sure, but it's based on the fact that you'll find anything and everything at all four Fallout Games in the Valley. Inside each location, a multitude of titles, systems and gear spanning multiple generations of video gaming are arranged from floor to ceiling. There are old-school machines like the Vectrex and Odyssey 2 consoles perched above rows and rows of games from modern-day consoles. They also stock collectibles (need a Mega Man helmet?), vintage Nintendo Power issues, plastic pixel art and any sort of connection cable you might've misplaced. Unlike the fictionalized version of Fallout Games seen on the silver screen, none of it will summon any evil entities.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of