This story ran as part of a VCU Student Media Center summer special publication, The Compass, which serves as a guidebook for new students.
Emily Furlich, Contributing Writer
Chop Suey Books
One of the biggest draws in Carytown for the literati is Chop Suey Books. If you have a specific book in mind that you would like to buy, this is the place to go. If you don’t find the book you’re looking for on the shelf, just talk to the clerk — they will purchase the book straight from the distributor and often give you a 10% discount. Even if you don’t know which book you want going into the shop, given the breadth of titles in the store, you’re sure to find something. In fact, as owner Ward Tefft explained in a recent New York Times profile of the store, “chop suey” is likely derived from the Mandarin phrase “za sui,” which means “a little bit of this, a little bit of that.”
The best thing about Chop Suey — well, aside from the sweet black-and-white cat named WonTon who roams the aisles — is the bookstore’s commitment to engaging the local literary scene. On the first floor you’ll find new releases, including work by local writers. In fact, one of my favorite visits to Chop Suey was when I attended a reading of “No Archive Will Restore You,” by Richmond writer Julietta Singh. People sometimes complain about the prices at Chop Suey, but it’s worth the investment because your money goes back into the community.
Chop Suey Books is located at 2913 W. Cary St. and is open from noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Richmond Book Shop
If you don’t know Richmond Book Shop already, you probably at least know the sign that spells out “BOOKS” in big lettering over a storefront on Broad Street. Known as a hipster haven, Richmond Book Shop has everything from used books and old magazines, to beautiful prints and old film posters. No matter your taste, there is something for everyone. In addition to stocking great books of the literary canon, the store also has shelves devoted to niche topics. Fans of the supernatural, for example, need look no further, for Richmond Book Shop has a shelf for books about the paranormal, the occult and UFOs.
Richmond Book Shop is located at 808 W. Broad St. and is open from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Circle Thrift & Art Space
Circle Thrift has recently reopened in a new, bigger location on 400 W. Broad St. in the same neighborhood and it’s still one of the best places in RVA for books. There are multiple selections of books here — there’s a shelf of miscellaneous books for only 50 cents each, and there’s a slightly more expensive collection curated by employees. Usually, the special selection includes a hodgepodge of art books, classic literature, old books and other specialty items. Circle Thrift is a must-visit location for committed book collectors because the books are unsorted, so it might take you some time to sift through them.
Not only does Circle Thrift have a host of interesting books, but you can also find other items typically found at a thrift store, such as clothing, shoes and old movies. The owners also work hard to make Circle Thrift function as an art space as well. Like Chop Suey, Circle Thrift gives back to the Richmond community in myriad ways — from opening up the storefront to collaborations with other nonprofits to featuring a variety of local artists on the walls of the store.
Circle Thrift is located at 400 W. Broad St. and is open from noon to 8 p.m. seven day a week.