4101 13th Ave. S.
Village West Shopping Center
Fargo, ND 58103
Writing from the deck of my house on one of the last perfect summer mornings of August, I am thinking back on all the events of the season and recalling one of the highlights, our annual trek to the yearly convention of the Pyrotechnics Guild International, held this year in Fargo, North Dakota. It was in this lovely city that I discovered Books at a Fifth, a small, but impressive, used bookstore. There it was, snuggled up next to a barbershop in a small strip mall less than two blocks from, of all things, a Barnes and Noble. Now I have nothing against Barnes and Noble. I am in fact a frequent B & N shopper possessing both a membership card and a Mastercard from said store. But outside of discovering whether or not there is a cafe or a music section, when you enter an unfamiliar Barnes and Noble, you know exactly what to expect. It will be very--well--familiar. That's one of the reasons why I find it such a treat to unearth an independent bookstore, rather like trailblazing a new route to a favorite place taking back roads instead of the highway. I was immediately intrigued by this small bookstore that had the chutzpah to be located in such close proximity to the giant of bookstores.
at the checkout desk with Books at a Fifth owner, April
In business for over two years, the store fills a scant 500 square feet with nothing but books. Practically floor to ceiling (with step stools available for height-challenged readers like me), the volumes are well organized, neatly displayed, in good condition, and with good signage indicating genre. And yes, there is even a teen section. With books arriving daily, the shop acts almost like a book exchange. A patron bringing in a used book will get store credit for half of its Books-at-a-Fifth price. Many books make a return trip. On my visit, April showed me a book that had been sold, returned, and resold three times as indicated by small dots that she inks onto the page edges. Repeat customers are apparently common.
My purchases at this store were varied: a small hardcover copy of Silas Marner because it's my favorite classic and I currently have only paperbacks; Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger because it includes my all-time favorite short story, The Laughing Man, and because my copy is starting to fall apart; Straight Man by Richard Russo, because it is one of may favorite books and I have lost my copy; Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers and No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy because I have wanted to read both of them and just haven't gotten around to it yet; and Crashlander by Larry Niven for my son Culver because he is a Niven fan. All volumes were in good or like-new condition, and all for a grand total of around $10.
The shop may be small, but the value is great at Books at a Fifth.