Antiques & Flea Markets
When it comes to prices, the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places on Earth to live. That is, if you don't know what you're doing. The experienced East Bay penny-pincher knows that anything and everything needed for modern living can be purchased at a fraction of the retail cost by going to one of the area's many amazing flea markets. As the year begins, the biggest, baddest rummage sale of them all, the White Elephant Sale (333 Lancaster St., Oakland, first quarter of the year) takes place just off of 880 near the water. This sale, sponsored by the Oakland Museum of California, is where most Oaklanders bring their unwanteds to be sold for the benefit of the museum. You can find clothes, furniture, instruments, books, toys, and bric-a-brac, all at prices that often dip below one dollar. ... The rest of the year, locals can head to the nearby Oakland Coliseum Flea Market (5401 Coliseum Way, Oakland, 510-534-0325, daily), which offers daily flea market fare, with a mild emphasis on small, shop-like groups that can sell you tires, illegal birds, and porn. ... The Ashby Flea Market (1937 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-0744, weekends, 7-7) in Berkeley every weekend is more subdued and legal. This one takes place in the Ashby BART parking lot, and offers incense, beads, foods, and other hippie-influenced items. ... For the more discerning bargain hunter, the Alameda Point Collectibles Fair (2100 Ferry Point, Alameda, 510-522-7500, first Sundays of the month) is your place to find Tiffany lamps, old paintings, and ancient furniture. It's also the best place to find unique and weird antiques in the Bay Area. ... On the other side of the hills, it's the Solano Swap Meet (1611 Solano Way, Concord, 925-825-1951) that leads the way, with regular booths offering cheap wares that aren't always the cleanest, newest, or most legally obtained. ... But when it comes to stolen goods, the Laney College Swap Meet (7th St. at Fallon St., Oakland, Sunday mornings) is the king of the heap. This is hands-down the best flea market in the Bay Area, where meth heads sell their stolen goods, Hispanic families sell imported white T-shirts for $2 apiece, and a local video-game fanatic found four unreleased Atari-age prototypes hidden in the piles (paid $29, worth $3,000). This is a swap meet at which you must dig for buried treasures. ... If you enjoy all that digging, but can't wait until Sundays to do it, the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (4695 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-547-6470) is open weekdays, and offers a combination of salvaged goods and crafting supplies. From egg cartons to CDs to stools and stamps, this is where elementary-school art teachers stock up. ... For bigger diggings, it's Urban Ore (900 Murray St., Berkeley, 510-841-7283) in Berkeley that holds the crown. This massive lot and warehouse holds all manner of salvaged goods, but specializes in housing fixtures, like stoves, doors, windows, and toilets.
Print-media reading might be on its last legs elsewhere in America, but curling up with a good book or magazine will never go out of style around here. Bookshops don't get more eclectic, eccentric, and egalitarian than Book Zoo (6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-654-2655). After years in a Berkeley space little bigger than a VW van, this treasure box of secondhandiana has relocated to bigger digs in Oakland. ... Having outlasted both a Barnes & Noble that once stood across the street and Cody's, which was legendary but didn't last in its final nearby outpost, Pegasus Books Downtown (2349 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-649-1320) offers new and used books with lots of page-flipping elbow room. Ask the Pegasus staff to recommend their favorites — and they'll do so with a smile and strong sense of purpose. ... Just one year old, Issues (20 Glen Ave., Oakland, 510-652-5700, IssuesShop.com) stocks enough magazines and newspapers to make you almost forget the Internet exists. A mom-and-pop place with a firm local following, it carries big-time glossies and obscure oddities. ... Art books are the gift that keeps on giving, even (or especially) if you give them to yourself. The Berkeley Art Museum bookstore (2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-642-1475) includes sections on art history, art theory, technique, film, architecture, and design, plus everything you'll ever want to know about Botero, Boltanski, and the Fauves. ... Innumerable internationally renowned literary icons have crossed the threshold of Black Oak Books (1491 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-486-0698), some to give readings — and some just because they live in the neighborhood. Work up an appetite browsing new and used volumes in this Gourmet Ghetto landmark. ... A living legend that exudes Telegraph Avenue heritage and history, Moe's Books (2476 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-2087) is four stories tall and nearly fifty years old. Secondhand books in every imaginable category are the specialty of the house, with a lively calendar of readings by visiting authors, especially poets. ... Contra Costa County's author-event central is Clayton Books (5433D Clayton Rd., Clayton, 925-673-3325). Hosting some of the most famous names and literary cult figures writing today. it's a friendly — and family-friendly — literary haven east of the Caldecott Tunnel. ... It shares that distinction with Rakestraw Books (409 Railroad Ave., Danville, 925-837-7337), another cozy independent. Its events range from intimate readings to deluxe dinners with award-winning authors. ... Perfect for a quick last-minute gift-run or for whiling away several hours, Half Price Books (2036 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-6080) is a vast football-fieldish emporium of secondhand and remaindered books at markdown prices. With CDs and DVDs also in stock, you can't beat Half Price for downtown-Berkeley convenience. ... Right nearby, and handy for all your Elvish and Venusian needs, is The Other Change of Hobbit (2020 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-0413). This long-lived and well-loved sci-fi/fantasy specialty shop has some of the nicest and most knowledgeable employees around. ... Right around the corner, compact Eastwind Books (2066 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-2350) is your source for everything from bonsai-growing guides to Laotian-English dictionaries to The Book of Jook. A downtown-Berkeley staple for nearly thirty years, it's a literary trip to Asia and Asian America. ... Aching to travel even farther — say, out of this world? Specializing in fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery fiction, Dark Carnival (3086 Claremont Ave., Berkeley, 510-654-7323) is a gateway to other galaxies, imaginary empires, and home-style crime. ... Named for Marcus Garvey, Marcus Books (3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, 510-652-2344) has hosted such notables as Toni Morrison and Muhammad Ali since it opened in 1976. It's not just an independently owned bookstore specializing in African-American topics; as an offshoot of the original San Francisco Marcus Books, which was a Black Power-movement hub, it's a repository of history. ... Nestled in Oakland's leafy Montclair District, A Great Good Place for Books (6120 La Salle Ave., Oakland, 510-339-8210) has a real neighborhood feel. It's the hills' hub for author events, and dozens of local book clubs call it home. ... Just browsing the politics section at Walden Pond (3316 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510832-4438) could take a whole afternoon for the ideologically inclined; then the labor-studies and art sections would stretch well into the evening. An old-timer, it feels like bookshops used to. ... Whether you're looking for a classic or something unconventional, independent bookstore Diesel (5433 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-9965) will likely have what you seek. And if the store doesn't have it in stock, a helpful staff person will gladly order it for you, so you don't have to go to Barnes & Noble. ... Pulitzer Prize-winners and petunias get equal attention at Mrs. Dalloway's Literary and Garden Arts (2904 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-8222). A full schedule of readings, demonstrations, workshops, and other events featuring an international panoply of authors and garden specialists attracts enthusiastic crowds. ... Bust out the blue and gold — and green — at the ASUC Bookstore (Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union Building, UC Berkeley, 510-642-1968). It's the most convenient spot to stock up on a whole semester's worth of studying, plus pick up a few extra books just for pleasure. ... Starting school and low on cash? Right across the street from campus, Ned's (2476 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-204-0900) sells both new and used versions of textbooks for current UC Berkeley courses. ... You say you want a revolution? Solidarity rules at Revolution Books (2425 Channing Way, Berkeley, 510-848-1196), where fiery chat about the Revolutionary Communist Party and its fellow travelers is always on tap. Few retail experiences feel more cerebral than a long, leisurely browse-and-buy at University Press Books (2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-548-0585), which carries the output of university presses from around the world. Visiting scholars on every topic from Northern Californian Native American dance to the ecology of fire discuss their work here. ... You can't learn home construction from books, but Builders Booksource (1817 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-845-6874) gets you partway there. In Berkeley's luxe Fourth Street district, which is a design-and-architecture success story in itself, this spacious shop's volumes on architecture, design, and construction provide endless inspiration. It's not quite a matter of which books you'd choose to read on a desert island ... But Alameda is an island. And Books Inc. (1344 Park St, Alameda, 510-522-2226) has all the books you'd choose to read, plus readings by high-profile authors, including many beloved children's authors. ... Is Borders (5903 Shellmound St., Emeryville, 510-654-1633) a bookstore or a whole separate town? With its own cafe and virtually every type of new book you can think of, it's big enough to get lost in, but that wouldn't be so bad. ... Specializing in ethnic-studies books and poetry, Rebecca's Books (3268 Adeline St., Berkeley, 510-852-4768) is fairly new, but exudes a nostalgia-stoking hominess. Frequent poetry readings, children's events, and open mics keep things interactive. ... Love to read but low on funds? Remember your local library for books, author events, children's events, workshops, secondhand book sales, and much more; check out OaklandLibrary.org. CCCLibrary.org, BerkeleyPublicLibrary.org, and ACLibrary.org.