Recyled Books: Denton’s Independent and Used Bookstore

I’ve lived in Denton off and on over the past ten years and there are many reasons I always return: the small town vibes, the unique restaurants, the artsy nature of a college town–and of course the square in downtown that’s revived over the years.

A picture of my dog crossing the street toward the Denton Community Theatre.
My dog loves to sniff everything around the Denton Community Theatre.

When I first moved to Denton ten years ago, the square was pretty lifeless. It didn’t have near the number of great restaurants, shops, and bars it has today. What it did have, however, was a great bookstore. Recylced Books at the Opera House is quite a historic Denton landmark. Its nearly pastel purple color and trim are hard to miss. I’ll be honest. The first time I ever saw the building I found it kind of garish, but over the years I’ve come to find it quite attractive.

A picture of the Opera House and Recycled taken from the square.
An older photo due to the ridiculously cold, rainy weather on the day of my recent visit.

Recycled was my first experience shopping at an independent bookstore. Growing up my mom always drove my sister and I to the Walden’s Books in the next town. When I was old enough to drive, another nearby town gained a Borders (RIP) where I spent most of my weekends. I was used to new books with neatly organized shelves and open lines of sight. I was unprepared for the messy organization adopted by quirkier independent bookstores like Capitol Hill Books in Washington, D.C.

A view of the bookstore from the third floor with CDs, books, and tons of pictures and signs taped to the walls.
View from the third floor, which houses classics, poetry, and fiction–my favorite section of the bookstore.

There are books and records on and in everything, as well as hand-made signs and notes–some helpful and some just for fun. And yes, the old shag carpet is an incredible shade of yellow-green. It can be a culture shock for someone used to the Barnes and Noble style of book shopping, but it seems to fulfill that desire to explore and escape that many of us readers have.

A hand-drawn map of the third floor.
A map of the third floor! You are right by the fan.

The main level is separated into three major rooms with a number of winding shelves, and there is a basment level as well.What I love are the little nooks and funny pictures throughout the store which make somehow make you feel both pleasantly lost and comfortably at home. The third floor is my hide-out. It has my favorite books, the best view, and it’s the least frequented section of the store.

A picture of the Contemporary Literature section on the third floor.
A picture of the Classic Literature section on the third floor.

Oh and did I mention the amazing musty smell of the books? That was something I’d never encountered before visiting Recycled. I was used to the smell of new books (which, don’t get me wrong, that is a great smell too); but even now when I walk into Recycled, I immediately know I’m surrounded by books that have been well-loved.

A picture of the fantasy and sci-fi section with sticky notes covering various books.
Part of the fantasy and sci-fi section on the second floor.

The employee recommendations written on post-it notes is a newer addition–at least since I was last living in Denton. Written recommendations are a staple in most bookstores now, both chain and independent, but I like how Recylced stays true to its slap-dash, homemade feeling with the sticky notes. It just fits the whole vibe of the store.

An example of the funny pictures and signs posted throughout the store, featuring a dog, two cats, and a sign explaining this area is for books to be shelved.
Some of the many, many signs ad pictures.

I’ve been to many independent and used bookstores around the country. I like to travel and I always have to check out the book scene wherever I am. The trend these days is more toward beautifully designed and organized bookstores like Book People in Austin or the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. I love each of those bookstores and I loved the experiences I had there, but I think bookstores like Recycled are too unique to miss.

More examples of pictures featuring old prints and portraits of mostly unkown places and people.
I hope you’re getting the idea by now.

To me, Recycled Books is irresistable chaos. If the bookstore were a person, it would be a brilliant and disorganized professor. If you’re ever in Denton and you don’t explore it for yourself, you’re missing out on something special.


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