16 E Main Street, Amsterdam, NY
I don’t visit the small city of Amsterdam very often, but if I ever do find myself there on the banks of the Mohawk River, The Book Hound is one place I’d certainly visit again. Although the shop did have the feel of a place that didn’t get heavy traffic, it did have plenty of surprises waiting within.
The shop deals primarily in used books, although to find them you’ll have to pass through a rather eclectic and cluttered entryway that contained more antiques and knick-knacks than books. This underwhelming first impression belies a rather nice collection hidden behind in a small but twisting maze of rooms. There was a diverse history and nonfiction section with some newer offerings and one nice oversize book of noir film art that I should have taken home, but didn’t. Shame.
In the furthest reaches there was a dollar book shelf (bingo!) where I found a concise but interesting primer on the Black Plague, along with a very random selection of other discounted books from all genres and eras, mostly older though. They had a large religion section as well, again skewing older, and on the big center table in the back room you could find a lot of turn-of-the-century magazines and tabloids. History buffs might find a few real gems in there, but it wasn’t for me.
However, their wall of fiction, poetry, and plays held enough notable names to give me a reason to linger. There I found everything from Shakespeare to Steinbeck to the Beats and beyond, and I walked away with two more books—poetry from William Carlos Williams and Dorothy Parker. Had there not been a strange high-pitched mechanical whining coming from somewhere in the room, I may have browsed longer.
All in all, despite appearances, The Book Hound turned out to be worth the trek, despite initially looking like it was teetering on the edge of antiquity. A sad but true story for many a bookshop nowadays, and I do hope The Book Hound is still there and doing well the next time I pass through.
Atmosphere — Some rooms have an orderly selection while others have the feel of an antique flea market, so the atmosphere varies.
Quality — All used, and some dated, but the books are in good shape, although the antique books and magazines are appropriately delicate.
Quantity — A modest amount, enough to keep you browsing for a half hour or so if you pace yourself.
Diversity — Heavy on nonfiction, history, and religious titles with a surprisingly decent fiction section for a small shop.
Affordability — Very affordable, being used. They even chipped in a free book for orders over a certain amount.
Amenities — You won’t find many here, and the back room had an odd whining noise that kept me from lingering. It’s all about the books here.
Location — A rather empty looking street in downtown Amsterdam, though I’m sure (I hope) it’s more active in the summer months.
Customer Service — The staff were polite and quiet.
Overall — If you’re looking to browse for used books and Amsterdam isn’t far, I wouldn’t dissuade you from stopping in. If it’s a hike for you to get there, you may find other more robust shops closer to you. But this used book shop has some gems inside.