Books in Corvallis: Where to Find Your Next Great Read

Photo by Genevieve Weber

Corvallis is full of all types of people, and a lot of us are—admit it—pretty nerdy. We love books. And luckily for the bookworms of Corvallis, our relatively small, quiet city has a spectacular collection of unique, locally-owned and operated bookstores, the likes of which are not commonly found even in bigger cities.

With Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, e-books are steadily gaining popularity. But there’s something—a lot, I think—to be said about holding a book in your hands rather than starting at a screen. Used books, with their crinkles and creases and cracked spines, have character—you can tell that they are loved. Even when a book is just sitting on its shelf, nestled cozily among its fellow novels and errant bibliographies, it makes you feel like you’re not alone. Books even smell warm and fuzzy. OK, maybe they just smell like paper, but you get the picture. As useful as they are for long trips, an e-reader lacks the personality of a good book.

Photo by Genevieve Weber

Photo by Genevieve Weber

Browser’s Bookstore is literally packed with used books, none new, with some dating as far back as the 14th century.

“Every book has its own personality,” said Scott Givens, owner of Browser’s. “We like books that have some history to them.”

The store houses six times as many books per square feet as a typical Barnes and Noble. Browser’s feels a bit like your grandfather’s attic—look up high and down low or you’ll miss the books piled on top of shelves and stacked in the aisles. It’s messy, friendly, and old-fashioned.

“There aren’t many bookstores like this left in America,” said Gerry Rouff, a Browser’s bookseller.

Browser’s Bookstore also specializes in rare and classic books—you’ll find books priced from 75 cents to over $1,500. And feel free to bring in your old books to sell or trade for credit. Brower’s Bookstore also has a location in Albany. On my way out, I picked up the sequel to The Integral Trees, a 1984 Larry Niven sci-fi novel that I once loaned out and never got back.

At Grass Roots Books and Music, peruse a smaller but highly compelling collection of books by local authors and popular bestsellers, among others. This store also carries gifts, magazines, greeting cards by local artists, calendars, and new music and movies. You can also purchase books and e-books from the store’s website. If they don’t have what you’re looking for in stock, they’ll usually be able to get it for you within one day at no charge. Grass Roots has been in Corvallis for 41 years, and is highly involved with the city’s local book culture, hosting or co-hosting such authors as Pam Houston and Cheryl Strayed last spring, and Robert Michael Pyle, Judith Arcana, and Jan Brett this fall. Show up for staff-led book clubs on the first Tuesday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Pamela Moeller, bookseller and event planner for Grass Roots, pointed out the store’s Staff Favorites section, which is useful for readers who love a particular genre but don’t know many authors. Pamela likes Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Both in an attempt to branch out from my admitted sci-fi addiction and because the movie was fantastic (and the book is always better), I grabbed a copy of The Help.

Remember that Niven novel I loaned out and never got back? The Book Bin had it, and now I do once again! The Book Bin is certainly Corvallis’ most spacious bookstore, and it carries both used and new books, as well as used music and movies. But beware guard cat Tess! No, not really—she’s actually super sweet. The Book Bin will buy your used books, CDs, and DVDs, and it also boasts “bargain books,” which the bookstore purchases as overstock from various publishers. John Munster, a manager at the Book Bin, showed me the store’s paperback stock of The Hunger Games trilogy, something that is unavailable in most of the U.S.—the second two books are currently available only in hardcover. The bookstore purchased the trilogy from a publisher in the U.K., and is providing it to readers here in Corvallis for $19.95, less than half the normal U.S. price. The Book Bin also has a fantastic children’s books section, and if they don’t have what you’re looking for—which is unlikely given their massive selection—they’ll help you find it elsewhere in Corvallis.

Corvallis has—or had, really—a fourth bookstore on the OSU campus, but be aware that this location will be moving closer to Reser Stadium. All faculty-authored books and those from OSU Press will survive the change in location, but it’s likely that the bestsellers and other novels will no longer be available.

While Browser’s Bookstore, Grass Roots Books and Music, and The Book Bin are the chief bookstores here in Corvallis, don’t forget to check local antique shops such as Buckingham Palace for older books, or browse Goodwill’s book section for additional inexpensive finds—although you may end up reading a lot of romance novels (no judgment)…

By Genevieve Weber


Browser’s Bookstore:

Grass Roots Books and Music:

The Book Bin:

OSU Press: