How Your Local Thrift Store Tells You Which Books You Should Never Buy New

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I think you can learn a great deal from visiting your local thrift store. The book section can be particularly enlightening, as you would expect from the place serving as a sort of book purgatory. Some books spend a brief time in the thrift store before they are snatched up by readers and crafters. But for some literary forever-alones, the thrift store is just one of the last steps on their way to the pulp factory for reincarnation -- or if they're really unlucky, to the landfill.

You tend to see the same kinds of books, and often the exact same titles, over and over again at thrift stores. From this repetition we can derive pattern recognition, and the patterns point to the idea that these are the kinds books that we just don't need to buy new copies of. You don't need to waste money on new ones because there are just too many of them already in the thrift stores waiting for you to buy at used prices. And if you insist on buying a new copy, chances are that you will eventually donate it to the thrift store anyway.  

You see, you probably don't really want to buy and permanently own these books. You especially don't want to buy them new. You just think you do (see? marketing WORKS!). And if you really, REALLY want them, you know you're better off borrowing them from your library or waiting for them to show up at your local thrift store after some other poor sap makes the mistake of buying it at full price.

So, according to my local thrift store, here are all the books you should never buy new:

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1. Baby books

From baby name collections to baby ownership manuals to Anne Geddes coffee table tomes (creepy), baby books are a prime example of the books that you think you want -- or even think you need -- to buy brand new copies of. But within a few months of owning them you realize that you could have learned everything in them from a couple of free websites and your mom. Besides, you need that extra shelf space they're taking up to hold your massive diaper hoard (thanks, Costco!). So you pass them on to your local thrift store where a more frugal shopper can discover how pregnancy tests work (just to clarify, the WOMAN, not the man, pees on the stick) and what the name "Enid" means. I mean, thanks for bringing new life into the world -- I'm talking about the used book world, not the baby world -- but you really didn't have to buy that new book. Next time just ask the internet and your mom.

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2. Books written by outspoken, charismatic celebrities

You can already see and hear their thoughts on TV and radio, so why do you need to buy their book? Just wait for some other fan to buy it, forget to read it, and donate it to Goodwill in a few months.

In case you were wondering, yes, I really enjoyed putting Ellen DeGeneres's book next to Rush Limbaugh's for this photo. I think it probably made Rush Limbaugh's eye twitch in karmic recognition of a liberal lesbian presence near his distant visage.

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3. Bibles and religious books

OMG BIBLES ARE EVERYWHERE. The Holy Bible, in all its various forms, is the best-selling and most widely-distributed book in the world. There are probably enough Bibles in your local thrift store to keep your largest Sunday school class fully stocked for months. And come on, you only need one. So before you rush out and buy the latest, hippest, coolest translation to reignite your religious fervor, check out the Bibles at Goodwill. There they sit, unloved and just waiting for you to take them home. And the best thing about them? Someone has probably already highlighted and underlined the good parts for you.

Oh, and that best-selling religious inspiration or self-help book that's calling to you from the shelves of Lifeway? There are probably hundreds of like-new ones at Goodwill. Wouldn't you be a better steward of your money by using it contributing to a charity and recycle when you purchase something? Then get the book at your local thrift store instead.

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4. Cookbooks

There are. So. Many. Cookbooks. At thrift stores. And a lot of them are good cookbooks too, with tasty Pinterest-worthy recipes just waiting for you to discover. And speaking of Pinterest and its ilk, with all the great recipe-finding tools online these days, you might not need cookbooks at all. But if you do, try the thrift store before you try Williams Sonoma.

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5. Bestsellers of any genre

I took a bad picture of two bestselling business books from the past couple of years, Charles Fishman's The Walmart Effect and Chris Anderson's The Long Tail, but thrift store shelves are littered with best ellers from all kinds of genres, both fiction and non-fiction. If you're patient, in a few months you'll probably be able to snatch up every current bestseller and book club recommendation you want at a low, used price. Now that's an idea worth selling.

What lessons do the books at your local thrift store have to teach you? Check it out and let me know.