Bookstore Review: Red Letter Books

When we were in Colorado, my husband and I met the nicest people in brewery tap rooms.   We swung by the Avery tasting room the night before we were supposed to leave Boulder, and while we were there, the guy sitting next to us at the bar told us about Red Letter Books.  (You can see that two of the themes of our trip–books and beer–joined forces for this post.)

We were scheduled to head out of town that next morning, but we stuck around a couple extra hours in order to check out the shop.  Red Letter Books is a used bookstore in Boulder, just past the pedestrian mall on Pearl Street.

There’s something classic about an overstuffed used bookshop, and Red Letter Books epitomizes that overcrowded vibe.

The bookshop’s tiny alcoves made it easy to lose yourself behind a stack of boxes, and it felt somehow serendipitous when a particular book surfaced at the top of a pile and found its way into your hands.  I was inexplicably charmed by this 1960s copy of Best Friends for Frances.  (Although when I flipped through, it struck me as mildly outdated in its depiction of gender, so I didn’t buy it.)  1960s children’s picture books always remind me of my grandparents’ house.  And vintage Hardy Boys mysteries–like these at Red Letter–bring me back to the collection in my own attic growing up.

We wound up browsing in Red Letter until our parking meter was dangerously close to expiring.  Along with a few other books, I picked up a beautifully bound edition on Japanese prints and Joan Silber’s slim volume on time in fiction.  (How had I not heard about this book before?)  Both are exactly what I’ve needed for my own research and revisions.  Which is, perhaps, the thing I love most about used bookstores like Red Letter.  The way they always seem to put just the right books in your hands — the ones you wouldn’t have known to look for.  (Amazon, for all its efficiency, can never duplicate this kind of fortuitous accident.)

I cannot wait to get back to Red Letter next time we’re in the area — if only to see what books chance happens to send my way.


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