Haphazard Observations of the Everyday

And a little fiction by Miguela Holt y Roybal

Miguela Holt y Roybal

Miguela Holt y Roybal
New Mexico, USA
March 10
Monarch of All She Surveys
Miguela Holt y Roybal is my maiden name en Espanol. I am a retired schoolteacher and aspiring author looking for crumbs of beauty among the ruins. My novel has been a work in progress for longer than I care to admit. It is a postmodern pastiche of magical realism and about a young woman from New Mexico who goes to work in Washington, DC during the 1980s. She has been a longtime witness to the secret rituals of the Penitente culture in her home state and learns about herself and redemption as she sallies forth on her quest for novelty and adventure. I claim fair useage of images found on the internet that illustrate some of my posts. All contents copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.


Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 29, 2011 7:41PM

COAS: My Favorite Bookstore and Mother of My Home Library

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           coas hpcolor


COAS My Bookstore

Just behind the U. S. Post Office in a downtown Las Cruces mall is Coas Bookstore.  In this modest building at 317 North Main Street with kind of cute 1960s style pueblo architecture hides the most magnificent book store I have ever had the pleasure to browse in at length.  The establishment contains the Southwest's largest inventory of chiefly used but also new books and it is the mother of my own home library that I will share with you presently.  It, too, is awesome; I hope you will agree.

I first learned of Coas My Bookstore in 1998 when I moved to Las Cruces to teach at a local high school.  During our first meeting, my colleagues in the English Department were happy to share their knowledge on many helpful topics and someone mentioned Coas.  She explained that a customer could take used books to the store and earn credit to trade for other books there.  This was very intriguing to me because I had a mini library in my classroom with more edgy reading material than what was available in the school's library. It seemed like a good idea to change the selection for my students and frequently was ideal.  The price was certainly right.


I entered the building through the mall carrying a cavas bag of books that I had bought at garage and yard sales that I no longer wanted.  The clerk inspected my offering carefully seperating them into two piles.  Those Readers Digest Condensed volumes that looked so nice on the shelves but were rarely read, I learned, were worthless.  Still, I was handed a receipt in the amount of $32.00 and was directed to the stacks. 


Gentle friend, when I say that it was like falling through the hole in Lewis Carroll's  Alice in Wonderland, I am not exagerrating!  At first I just walked through the building astounded at the sheer volume of books.  There was room after room after room of books--books from floor to ceiling, countless books. 


                      (Illustration by John Tenniel from Alice in Wonderland)

 COAS Book Aile

Many sat in piles waiting to find their places place on the shelves.


A Reader's Heaven

I put the bag that held the burdensome unwanteds and my thermos of hot tea on a handsome wooden table so that I could look around in earnest unencumbered.  Following the handwritten notelike signs on the bookcases, this Alice learned that there were individual rooms devoted to almost every subject imaginable.

Yes, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and the Jabberwock were there as well as every single enchanting or villainous character in the literary world that l could think of.  I decided to search for kind of obscure books, ones that I had enjoyed when I was younger and had lost when I loaned them to people who had no doubt set them aside unread. 

tea and books 009 

I reached way back into my reading memory and thought of Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman and found it along with several of his other writings.  The paperbacks were only three dollars a piece.  Okay.  I thought again.  How about The Palmwine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola?  My God, there it was.  The Hawkline Monster, Tex and Molly in the Afterlife, Another Roadside Attraction  They were all there.   

The Humanoids by my college professor, Jack Williamson?  Yes!   Wampeaters, Foma, and Granfalloons.  I couldn't think of a book that I didn't find.  Children's literature?  The Phantom Tollbooth, The 100 Dresses, Caddie Woodlawn, Ellen Tebbits.  All of my favorites were there and many surprising discoveries to explore further.  I had to make some hard choices that day before settling up at the front desk.  But I would be back.

Collecting books is a cheap and enriching hobby.

And I was back--every single week for four years.  This was my routine:  I woke up each Saturday morning and attended the garage sales I found posted in the newspaper.  At each, I bought the books that I thought Coas would trade with me.  Las Cruces is just a few miles from an interntional border and there is large university so the population is educated and varied. 

There was an amazing array of castoff books that I found in the tattered boxes people laid out on their front yards and I bought them for often less than one dollar and sometimes for a little as a dime.  Coas would give me much more than what I paid for a book in store credit.   I learned which books were valuable and which were not.  There is a big difference between editions of the same book and a dust jacket in good condition greatly enhances its value.  One signed by the author is always nice.  Art books are big money.

coas stack of books

More about the Store

Patrick Beckett, an archaelogist, founded Coas in 1984.  It began as an archaeological publishing firm and eventually broadened into a community bookstore. 

Coas Bookstore is family owned and staffed.  Service is unparalleled and special orders are no problem.  They report that business is good these days because people are looking for ways to economize and exchanging books is a way to indulge in reading on a budget. The store receives over 1000 books per day so the selection is endlessly various.  Coas also features scheduled popular reading activities for children including  occasional book giveaways.

Customers' trading accounts used to be kept on index cards in a file cabinet but now people can monitor their store credit online.  And although the trades are only made physically at the Coas store, the business boasts free shipping within the United States on its very informative website linked below in my sources.

COAS Bookstore is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Come browse a little in my home library.

My classroom's library was very nice and the students enjoyed my offbeat taste however as can be expected it was controversial and I had to have students' parental permission slips signed.  What I really gained from my favorite bookstore is my own personal writer's library that I am very proud to show off.  I am a little reluctant to lend.  It is the library of an educated lifelong reader with very discriminating taste leaning heavily toward science fiction, modernism, postmodernism, Latino literature especially magical realism, art, theatre, Southwest, and erotica. 

I noticed as I researched that the name of the store is now simply Coas Bookstore.  It formerly read Coas My Bookstore as you can see in the pictures.  I liked that part of the business' name, "My Bookstore," because it gave me a sense of proprietorship.

When I die, if there is an afterlife, I want this place to be my mansion framed by that Mighty Architect on High.  Here is my little piece of paradise on earth courtesy of Coas, truly my bookstore.    

My Library 003


This is only the fiction part of my book collection the majority of which were found, of course, at Coas.  I built the shelves myself last summer and I love them so much.  It was like I went from being a book hoarder with my stashes piled promiscuously on every single flat surface or hidden away in drawers to a refined lady with an impressive and carefully selected home library. 

Because I am also an artist it was important that the shelves look tidy and so they are not arranged alphabetically nor according to the Dewey Decimal System.  They instead are sorted with my own method and that means divided by whether they are hard or paper back, gathered according to sizes, and then each shelf is alphabetized.  I have some authors's collected works together size not withstanding, such an F. Scott Fitzgerald shelf, John Irving section, and the Kurt Vonnegut canon with criticism.   

My favorite thing to do when I am a guest at someone's house is to look at his books.  Would you like to take a peek at mine?  Here is the row at eye level and I would say it is representative of the others.  My children have liberal access to any of the books and so you will notice a couple out of order but I will reshelf them by and by.

My Library 004

My Library 005

My Library 006

My Library 008

My Library 009

My Library 010

My Library 011

Thanks for reading.

Sources for Facts and Images:




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i am on a plane right now to get there.
here in the northeast we got nothing like this.
heller & poe would have made a good
wordsworth & coleridge.

"When I die, if there is an afterlife, I want this bookstore to be my mansion. "

no greater honor to bestow.
What a wonderful place and an excellent write up. This is stellar !!! Thank you.
Tremendous story and photos. I need to get to Las Cruces and jump down that rabbit hole!
Somewhere, in an alternate life, in an alternate universe, I am living your life in New Mexico and reading books at Coas. Wish I had your hair, too.
I have only been through Las Vegas, and not visited Las Cruces. Looks like a book heaven. We found a big place like that, on the side of the road, taking the back road in Vermont this summer from Burlington south and then over the mountains (most of those riverside roads washed away a few weeks later in the hurricane). It was amazing and awe inspiring. this place must be its cousin.
LOve this and would have liked to have visited that Book Store.
Glorious! Glorious! Glorious!

What more can one say?
Next time I am in Cruces, I am going to Coas. Is that where you found the copy of Islandia?
Woo! Enraptured am I, by Coas and your books.

This is the first I knew you were in Las Cruces. My first sergeant, the late Norman Mabie, lived there. I had hoped some day to visit him there, but he died several years ago. He always spoke of how he loved the place.

BTW, maybe I missed this in your post, but is "Coas" someone's name, or the name of a company? Just curious, as I've not come across it anywhere before.
James--I wonder what you would find at Coas. There is just so much to explore. I found a book with the art of William Blake at a garage sale but that stayed with me and did not get traded at Coas. Thanks for stopping by.

dwhite--Thank you kindly.

MaryS--I would love to show you around the state if you came. You should see the gorgeous old adobe churches and moradas.

Deborah--My life at Coas was enviable. I wish I had my hair, too. That picture was from 1969. Thanks!
Oryoki Bowl--I have never been to Vermont but it is so neat to think of another place like Coas there. Surprising that there is no place like this in Santa Fe, isn't it?

Algis--Thank you for the compliment and Coas really is quite a place to see. Las Cruces is a very beautiful old town with Spanish influences. I would love to see what photos you would create there.

Skypixie0--You can say that I need to give my books better support and how to do it. Thanks!
Victoria--Yes. And also the little black book of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Ballad of the Harpweaver.

Matt--Thank you for the compliments. Like you, I have wondered about the name Coas for years. There is no explanation of it on their website or anywhere else that I looked. There is no apostrophe and so it makes me think maybe not a name. Perhaps it is an acronym. If I was a professional like you, I would call and ask. For now it is a mystery.
P. S. Matt--I no longer live in Las Cruces, a beautiful place, but was there for four years.
I conferred with my fellow "Damn Cat" and we cam to the conclusion that you do indeed need to support those books better. He is adamant that half-n-half cream and Fancy Feast will do the trick. I think that only by piling those empty Fancy Feast cans up high enough can you get the support you need.

If you don't have a cat to eat the Fancy Feast your local animal shelter will let one adopt you.

How cool, a bookstore that trades books. This post made me a bit sad as my husband and I lost our massive collection of books during Hurricane Irene, all but a few destroyed. Will have to start replenishing.
This is my favorite used book store. I have several volumes from here, especially old and out of print, some first editions. My mother lived in Las Cruces for her retirement. Thanks for writing about this place.
Wow. This is the BEST of OS right here. Your words (which are stunning) with your pictures (no fair, you're a photographer, too!). You know how I love your Americana pieces. People want to see America?? This is the stuff it is made of!!!
I'm impressed and I empathize. I never thought I'd be a collector but the combination of reading John Dunning's Book Man mysteries and my wife dragging me to garage sales slipped me over the edge. Slowly, I am building the library of my life--finding first editions of my favorite books in the strangest places. And yes, I can wile away hours in a good used book store.
There are books in our living room, in the dining room, in the computer/office room and then there are the ones in the basement!!! They are not organized and we occasionally try to purge a few. We find however, that our local used bookstores will buy some back, but only tempt us to buy more!!!! When my mother died (she was a teacher and a librarian), we were not prepared for how hard it was to divide her books between her grown children. We did it without a fight, but there were negotiations and a few coin flips.
There's a similar, albeit much smaller, store in Northwestern Pennsylvania. They have a similar exchange program. Nice post.
Skypixie0-I have a pretty shelter cat, a black one. Am I a mean mistress to only feed him the dry kibbles, and do boxes work well for support? ;D.

EricaK--What a bummer to lose your books that way. Replenishing is the thing to do when suffering a loss. I had to small floods in my basement last summer and am missing my Christmas box, the most treasured one, with the handmade ornaments my kids made and the ones collected over the years. I have others but still. Losing your books is the same way, some can be replaced but others . . . Coas would be a good place to look. There were lots of rare editions as I pointed out. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

Sheila--Coas is amazing, isn't it. My old volumes are not on these shelves but I found a lot of them at the bookstore. Your mom picked a great town to retire in. It has really built up in recent years and is very expensive to live in now--a lot like Santa Fe.
Brazen Princess--The founder of Coas really had a great idea and it's a very successful business. Thanks for your dear compliments about Americana. Since I grew up in Washington, D. C. where it is an industry, I love it, too. Want me to sing you a bunch of patriotic songs? I could!

MeatMonkey--This indeed is The Library of My Life and I love how you phrased that. I have a non fiction shelf that has about five hundred volumes and then some sets from the olden days and tiny red volumes of classics that look nice in the built in shelves of my old house but this set of shelves houses basically the contents of my reading life. Thanks for your comments and happy hunting at the garage sales!
LSD--My books were in that same condition before I built those shelves. Now I know what I have and can find them. There were many that I forgot that I had once they saw the light of day.

That was a neat anecdotes about your mother's book collection and your siblings. I wonder if my kids will feel that way, too. I hope so because I like to think that they would value my taste. I don't have a lot of valuable volumes. An old edition of the Arabian Nights illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. Some signed recent science fiction authors because there is a big conference here every year. Thanks for stopping by.
Shannon--Thanks for the compliment and for letting me know about Tattered Corners. I like the name of the store because of a recent post I read here on OS about some guy being offended by folded corners. I like to do it. Since they are online, I think I will wander over there and browse. Thanks, again.
Miguela, what a great resource and I wouldn't mind having a place like that near me, too! Your bookshelves look great as do the books on the shelves. Thanks for presenting this great story about COAS!
Seems like heaven. I loved browsing your home library too!
love this and the mental picture of you scouring the garage sales. My dream of heaven is to touch a book and then go inside. Nice to see this on the cover! :-)

Ah! All those books!!! I stared at the pictures of the seemingly endless shelves and ran through them in my imagination! How wonderful!!!! Beyond wonderful!!!

As for your own personal library, I love how you tied that in, and was pleased to see the faces of some beloved friends, including the Silverman Poe biography on your shelves!
You put quality time in your Great Post.

You even respect Jabberwocky. Thanks.

My Mother drew the Alice sketches in.

I gave her Alice in Wonderland book to:

Annabella. She will be home from school.

She saved me Halloween Tootsie Rolls.

She has 1,001 stories to share with me.

Adults yell irately` Ya pipe up asap.

I Love that book store. Old Odors.

I may go color with crayons now.
That's an impressive looking collection you have there, Miguela. I think I'm jealous.
What a wonderful book store. I can't believe they process 1000 books a day. They must never rest. I'm glad to find out about this bookstore. It sounds like it rivals Powell's in Portland for sheer size and wander-ability.
Absolutely lovely story of a love affair with a bookstore. Your private collection is a dream and a treasure. R
It is because nitrogen is lighter than oxygen, so you find a layer of biologically inert nitrogen high up there and the oxygen lower down.EXGF
I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. cheap plans
Those Readers Digest Condensed volumes that looked so nice on the shelves but were rarely read, I learned, were worthless. Still, I was handed a receipt in the amount of $32.00 and was directed to the stacks. tapetes personalizados
The store receives over 1000 books per day so the selection is endlessly various. Coas also features scheduled popular reading activities for children including occasional book giveaways.Small Man Advertising
I went from being a book hoarder with my stashes piled promiscuously on every single flat surface or hidden away in drawers to a refined lady with an impressive and carefully selected home library. pdf editor mac