About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Books By The Bag, Books By The Box

Unless you are at least as old as I am, chances are good that you are not familiar with the wit and wisdom of Sam Levenson. More's the pity. One of my prized possessions is his book, Everything But Money, in which he recalls with endearing humor and philosophy his upbringing by poor Jewish immigrants in the tenements of New York in the early 1900's:
"In those days people did not live as long as they do today, but things lived longer. In our house old things were not discarded but retired to a drawer in the kitchen which we called 'Mama's shame-to-throw-out drawer' . . . appropriately lined with old newspaper of which there was always a great abundance, since news, too, did not have to be new to be good. Mama saw no reason for buying new news when she had not yet used up the old." p. 26

This approach to print material can, of course, also be applied to books. Some of the most successful bookstores I have visited are purveyors of previously loved volumes. According to the handwriting on the inside cover, my copy of the Levenson book was given as a Christmas gift in 1966 from "Arlean" to "Brie." Thanks to my friend Gabe at Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo, it found its way to me. Since Levenson's books are now all out of print, finding used or library copies is the only way to read them.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when I heard about my local district library consortium having a big sale, I made it a point to check it out. Apparently most of the county was of like mind. Even though I arrived barely an hour after the sale had begun, the place was packed. It took me 15 minutes to find a parking spot along the side of a crowded road in the office/warehouse park where the sale was held. As I walked the considerable distance from my car to the large building that appeared to be the center of activity, I dodged a steady stream of other vehicles looking for parking spaces. Large numbers of pedestrians carrying what looked to be heavy tote bags and boxes prompted me to hasten my step.

A friendly woman at the door directed me to the back of the warehouse where tote bags and boxes were available. For $6 I could fill a bag. For $8 I could fill a box. Single books went for $.50. Another friendly woman handing out bags in the back asked me how many I wanted. Considering the distance to my car, I opted for only one.

Long lines of shoppers passed by rows of tables topped with boxes full of library books. Underneath the tables were more boxes of books, yet it was apparent that the supply was rapidly dwindling. I heard someone say that the children's books were almost gone. With a sense of urgency, I began thumbing through boxes in the "general fiction" area. Other than genre, there was no real organization to the boxes, so I looked for familiar author names. Luckily, it didn't take me long to fill a bag.

The sale was scheduled to go from noon until 8 p.m. on Friday and then again on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. How lucky I am that being retired afforded me the opportunity to get there on Friday afternoon. I would later learn that the overwhelming turnout resulted in the cancellation of the Saturday sale as the merchandise was all sold out.

All these books for 6 bucks? Even the cat is surprised.
On this particular shopping trip, I had a very specific purpose in mind. You see, my wonderful handy husband is building me a Little Free Library. If you are not familiar with these tiny gems of book-sharing genius, visit the Little Free Library web site to find out more. It's becoming quite a movement. Essentially, a person or a group posts a small library structure with books free for the taking and/or leaving as a way of sharing the love of reading. My LFL will actually be a Little Free Beach Library. We're planning to install it on the beach at our cottage, and my bag of books from this sale will help stock it. Rest assured that when it is completed, I will post some pictures. I expect it to be spectacular.

From the Little Free Library Facebook page

In the meantime, it is good to know that the love of books is strong enough to cancel one whole day of a library bulk book sale. Yes, people are still reading paper books just like they did when Sam Levenson was growing up.

"Plants could not flourish in our flat, but books did. They grew and multiplied in the dark. They were displayed, dusted, protected, and referred to with reverence. I respected them long before I could read them. In this sense, again, I was a privileged child. I was heir to an ancient tradition of love of learning." p.56

What a great way to grow up. What a great way to learn. What a great way to live.


Aunt Martha's Bookstore said...

I was there too and it was crazy!! I found a couple boxes worth of books!!

Aunt Martha's Bookstore said...

I was there too and it was crazy!! I found a couple boxes worth of books!!