Browsing used bookstores-- a few of the best

Black Oak's staff is friendly and unobtrusive. You don't have to check parcel and backpacks, because, as at Moe's and Cody's, there's an electronic theft-prevention system.

Black Oak's prices seem a little higher than at other used bookstores, but it;s still a nice store. Check the remaindered books for real bargains.

Continuing down Shattuck, at 1543, is Paper Tiger, a tiny second-and bookstore. It's up a flight of stairs and through a narrow doorway. The floor is of slightly uneven brick and the ceiling is low. If you dream of poking around in damp, old English bookstores, you might like Paper Tiger, although the shop is so small it's hard for the cashier to avoid looking over your shoulder.

Waldenbooks' first location in Berkeley is at Center and Shattuck. There's now another on Telegraph near Channing. this slick chain stocks mostly best-sellers, pop psych and magazines. The clientele at 2150 Shattuck is mostly people waiting for their buses.

It's also a bit dim inside, and smells of formaldehyde rather than books. On the other ahnd, the impersonal atmosphere may take some of the embarrassment out of buying your first copy of How to Make Love to an Extra-Terrestrial.

Two blocks up, on Telegraph, resides the giants, Moe's and Cody's, peacefully coexisting with a host of smaller competitors.

Cody's is a Berkeley institution, begun in the days when Berkeley was a quiet little university town. In the '60s, the privately owned section of sidewalk outside, now occupied by vendors of flowers and drawstring pants, was a haven for members of the Free Speech Movement when they couldn't speak on university or city property.

Cody's is justly famous for its books, its frequent, well-attended readings, and its history. The present owner has plans to expand into the building next door, with a cafe where the Eclair Bakery is now.

Moe's, like Cody', deserves an article to itself. This four-floor colossus dwarfs Pegasus, as well as every other bookstore in town. Books are neatly classified by subject, with directories on each floor, but alphabetization sometimes flounders.

Moe's advertises "highest prices" paid for used books, but they run much the same as at Shakespeare & Co. across the street.

Shakespeare's and Half-Price Books both suffer from overcrowding, though the effect is different. Shakespeare's does its best to maintain order, but ladders lean against the shelves, stretching into the arcane heights where more books are stacked.

Half-Price Books is a bit raw inside, with bare concrete floors and a loft whose joists show. Books tend toward the shabby; the selection is a bit seedy, too. Many books are set out in metal display racks of the type used in Woolworth's, which makes it difficult to find what you're after, but persistent looking can yield a treasure or two each time you visit.

The Other Change of Hobbit's address is 2433 Channing, but it's not on the street. It's off in a corner across from Cleo's Copies. It stocks only science fiction and fantasy, both new and used. The resident cat, Balrog (named for Tolkien's most fearsome monster), is well known to devotees of both genres.

Browsing is positively encouraged, and a high turnover of used books makes looking in once a week or so very worthwhile.

For more science fiction, all new this time, try Dark Carnival at 2812 Telegraph, halfway between Dwight and Ashby.

On the other side of campus is Northside Books, 1862 Euclid Ave., at Hearst. It was once a favorite hangout of Patty Hearst and Stephen Weed. It's a pleasant, well-stocked store with interesting window displays.

This tour barely covers the highlights of Berkeley's bookstores. In the Telegraph area alone, there are still Ed Hunolt's, the Campus Book Exchange, the Musical Offering, Shambhala, Logos and Crown, just to name a few.

I've left off Ben Franklin Books in North Shattuck Center, and Avenue Books on College. I haven't paid tribute to Cal Book, which went out of business last year, nor The Old Mole, a bookstore/coffeehouse which was recently closed by the IRS.

And to go a little farther afield, in Oakland there are two women's bookstores, A Woman's Place at 4015 Broadway, and Mama Bear's, 6536 Telegraph. Mama Bear's is also a gallery and coffeehouse.

Still, I'm sure I've left out or glossed over someone's favorite bookstore. So if you disagree with me, go ahead and complain to everyone you know. Word of mouth is as good a way to find good bookstores as reading newspaper articles.

-- Nicole Clifton, The Daily Californian, January 22, 1985