Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Good book titles to display at the shop

Here's a recent favorite:
I don't know why someone hasn't bought it yet, I love it. Perhaps because it's still January, and customers are somewhat... sparse. Today, I am thinking I will have one of those days when no one comes in at all. Ah well. I've got lots to read, if that happens.

My other favorite display title of late: How to Abandon Ship, Cornell Maritime Press.

The Odd Book of Data, by the way, is entertaining but incomprehensible in parts. Here is a sample from the introduction:

"Whatever its shortcomings, the present treatment of the mutual numerical relationships of Nature's parts may perhaps claim some didactic merit, for its deliberate purpose is to simplify - and thereby render more memorable - those quantitative data which we, and particularly the young student of science, are often at pains to absorb and retain. It is surely no blemish, in this respect, that the choice of example often enters the realm of the comic." (pp.v-vi)

Hm. Well, flipping through the book at random, I found this fascinating item:

"(At a certain observatory) it was discovered that the building inclined 1/10mm toward the East in the morning, and leaned toward the West to a similar degree in the evening, from which it was apparent that large buildings in general follow the course of the Sun to a measurable, if extremely limited, extent." (p.70)

Holy cats.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Bleak House - the morning after

I enjoyed episode two last night. What great character actors - these must be dream roles for them. Just when I thought I had a handle on who everyone was and what their motivations were - more. More characters, more plot twists, more mysterious behavior, more of everything. It was positively... positively... Dickensian. I had to say it.

Favorite names from Bleak House, so far:

Mr. Guppy
Lady Dedlock
Mr. Snagsby
Mr. Smallweed

They're all good, though, aren't they.


Library sale etiquette and strategy

I received this comment about my last post:

Do you have a strategy towards these sales? I arrived half an hour after my local library's most recent Friends' sale and found at least three booksellers already there who had run through the aisles, selected a stack of books, and were hoarding them in the corner. One group was scanning ISBNs and sending them to a person offsite to scan to see if the book held any value. I understand their impetus and strategy, but I will say it was very irksome, as an individual coming in to look at a leisurely pace. I thought that if I ever owned a used bookstore, that would be one of the less enviable ventures.

I have a lot to say on the many issues that this person raises, so I'll address them here at length rather than in a short reply on the comments page.

First, of course I have a strategy (or, as our esteemed president would say, strategery). I am a used bookseller and I want to buy inexpensive books for my shop on a regular basis. And I'm also a book collector, and want inexpensive books for my own library. At the shop, I keep my book prices low (unless the books are very unusual or rare) and pass the good deals that I've gotten at library sales on to my customers. So, I shop many many library sales throughout the year. First suggestion: arrive early. I'm a wee bit compulsive so I'm usually at least an hour early. And I like socializing in line with other dealers (most of whom are colleagues and friends). It's a good chance to catch up. When a sale first opens, everyone fans out and I really feel that everyone has an equal opportunity to spot the "good" books, whether they are dealers or not. I also feel strongly that there are enough books in the world for everyone, so there's no need to be greedy, rambunctious, obnoxious, or rude at a library sale. The people shopping around me are my friends and customers and fellow booklovers. I want to stay on the good side of the library volunteers. They work very hard to put on these sales, and deserve our respect and goodwill at all times. That said, of course I have seen behavior that makes me blush for my profession. However, please know that the only library sales I've ever been to where I could browse at a leisurely pace were the ones at which I was the only person there (and what a pleasure they were). If you want a quiet leisurely browse, a library sale is not the place to be. It's usually mayhem (I'm thinking about the Bar Harbor library sale every August, in particular - a huge sale at the height of the tourist season).

Once inside a sale, I stack up books in a corner, too, with my coat thrown over them, or I shop while my husband takes armloads of books from me every few minutes. Before I check out, I usually sort my books, in my little corner, just to check for copious highlighting and mold or mildew, which I won't allow in my shop. The dealers you saw calling in ISBNs... what can I say about that. The first thing that comes to mind is that they must not know their business very well, if that's how they are deciding what decent, saleable books are. Or they must be internet-only dealers. To them, Faugh, I say. Personally, I don't know anyone who does that at sales, and I don't think the library volunteers should allow it, unless perhaps the sale is a multi-day one in which these dealers' rejects stand a chance of being bought by someone else. I go to one sale every summer at which one of the rules of the sale (a rule sheet is passed out before the sale opens) is that if you pick a book up and put it in your bag or box or pile in the corner, you've bought it. No culling allowed. This is fine with me, I'm just more careful as I shop. But every sale is different.

Now, about that last point: ...if I ever owned a used bookstore, that would be one of the less enviable ventures. I myself LOVE library sales. I consider them fun free-for-alls (or nearly free). I love walking into a school gymnasium filled with eight-foot tables of books. I just love being where many books are gathered together (libraries, shops, booksales, antiquarian bookfairs). Some of the best books I've ever had in my bookselling career I found at library sales for a dollar or two each. That's the treasure-hunting aspect of this business. However, I know a few booksellers who hate sales, hate the hurly-burly nature of them, and don't shop at them at all. I love the thrill of finding a great book. What is a great book? Well, it can be anything I consider great. I worked in a new-book store for nearly seven years, then sold books in an antiques shop and online for five years, and now have had my shop for almost five years, so I've got some book-knowledge stored up, and I know what I like. I also love being surprised by books I've never seen or heard of or read about before. There's always something new.

A final note: some of the best books I've ever found at sales were found an hour in, after many of the other bookdealers left. So ignore those dealers in the corner, and look at what's still on the tables. And remember, when you see bookdealers scarfing up books quickly at library sales, that the library group wants us to be there. We are their best customers, year after year.

I welcome further thoughts on these issues. I've been attending library sales for over ten years now, and I've got a lot of good stories - anyone else?

Saturday, January 28, 2006


The joy of a good library sale in mid-winter

Well, the sale this morning was a success. I ended up buying seven cartons of books, a mix of hardcover and quality paperback (I don't buy mass market paperbacks), for $120. I found a few books I wanted myself, including Spalding Gray's Morning, Noon and Night, first edition, hardcover, and a good hardcover of the Diaries of Evelyn Waugh. The "finds" of the sale were a nice first edition in jacket of Tony Hillerman's The Great Taos Bank Robbery, 1973 (my husband picked that up), a signed Jimmy Carter book, and a signed hardcover James Lee Burke book. Also, a first edition of Virginia Woolf's Flush, and a stack of Nancy Drew books. The prices ranged from twenty-five cents up to a dollar per book. I've been happily cleaning, pricing, and shelving books for the past few hours.

Do most people think that the books being sold at library sales are only cast-offs from the library? Not so! Most are donations collected by the friends-of-the-library-group. So, anything can turn up. This sale had a lot of good science and nature books, for some reason - Richard Feynman and James Gleick, John Muir and John McPhee. I love buying good books for myself, but I really love buying good books for the shop.

Friday, January 27, 2006


A Friday miscellany

Well, we've almost made it through January, book-friends. The University of Maine has been back in session for over a week, just a few miles up the road, and thrifty English students have been buying inexpensive copies of their books from yours truly, which always serves to lift both my spirits and my bank balance after paying taxes and various insurances this time of year.

However, I had a professor call me the other day looking for a copy of the book she wanted to use for her class this spring - the book is temporarily between editions and is out of print until summer. It was a how-to book for writing, called Something-something-something Part B. I told her I didn't usually carry books like that (true textbooky-type things), and that the books I carry for writers tend to run more to Strunk & White's The Elements of Style and the like. You know, the classics. Fowler. She took a breath, then said derisively, "Well, that's fine if you want to learn to write like some guy from the 1940s." I was so shocked (I usually am when people are mean, anyway) that I couldn't say a word. A few seconds went by and I stuttered out something like "Well, there you go," while thinking, E.B. White... my god, who wouldn't want to write like E.B. White...

It took me a while to get over that. To be honest, it's been a week and I'm still fretting about it a little. Hence this blog post to get it out of my system. I need to move on.

So, from p. 67 of The Elements of Style: "All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation - it is the Self escaping into the open."

And here's a writing sample from p. 74: "'Clyde Crawford, who stroked the varsity shell in 1928, is swinging an oar again after a lapse of forty years. Clyde resigned last spring as executive sales manager of the Indiana Flotex Company and is now a gondolier in Venice. '"

I'm looking forward to an action-packed weekend, beginning with a local winter-madness library sale tomorrow morning (I really need some new books for the shop), and ending on Sunday night with episode two of Bleak House.

On an unrelated note, I watched part of 'Love Monkey' the other night on tv. Am I the only one who thinks that these people owe Nick Hornby some royalties? It's all just a little too close to High Fidelity for comfort. One of the characters had a top-five-best songs list - granted, in High Fidelity, they are top-ten lists, but still. I don't know why I watched it. I was tired and my eyes couldn't focus on a printed page, I suspect.

On another unrelated note, Happy 250th Birthday, dear Mozart. I'm listening to your Requiem this morning in the bookshop.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Judging books by their covers

I took a book home to read last night, the Ancilla to Classical Reading by Moses Hadas (Columbia University Press 1954), because opening it at random produced this gem from Seneca, from his On Tranquility, on the rise in popularity of the home library:

"There was no 'good taste' or 'solicitude' about it, but only learned luxury - nay not even 'learned,' since they had collected the books not for the sake of learning but to make a show, just as many who lack even a child's knowledge of letters use books, not as the tools of learning, but as decorations for the dining-room. Therefore let just as many books be acquired as are enough, but none for mere show. 'It is more respectable,' you say, 'to squander money on these than on Corinthian bronzes and on pictures.' But excess in anything becomes a fault. What excuse have you to offer for a man who seeks to have bookcases of citrus-wood and ivory, who collects the works of unknown or discredited authors and sits yawning in the midst of so many thousand books, who gets most of his pleasure from the outsides of volumes and their titles? Consequently it is in the houses of the laziest men that you will see a full collection of orations and history with the boxes piled right up to the ceiling; for by now among cold baths and hot baths a library also is equipped as a necessary ornament of a great house. I would readily pardon these men if they were led astray by their excessive zeal for learning. But as it is, these collections of the works of sacred genius with all the portraits that adorn them are bought for show and a decoration of their walls."

I'd like bookcases of citrus-wood. Mmmmm. I think the whole paragraph hinges on that wonderful word "enough" in the second sentence. This is our escape-hatch, fellow bibliophiles. Who's to say what's enough? One bookcase? A room full of books? An apartment full of books, say, and a bookshop to boot?

Ancilla, incidentally, is Latin for handmaid. The book's preface opens with: "A whimsical title is probably ominous for a book innocent of whimsy." I'm looking forward to reading more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Well, that settles it

I won't be reading Bleak House this week. I was all set to take it home with me last night, and at the end of the day before closing up the shop I was flipping through it idly. It's an old Literary Guild hardcover, has some illustrations, and I was looking at them thinking they were familiar, so I checked the title page, and yes indeed, they are by Edward Gorey. I was so happy - not only were they Gorey, who fits the mood of the book, but the copyright page says that the illustrations are from 1953, which is early on in his career. Most unfortunately, however, as I flipped back to the title page, the following phrase caught my eye: Arranged for Modern Reading. Oh dear. What does this mean? Can it be an abridged version? I'm not sure, but I can only assume that the text has been altered somehow, so I guess this will be a case of the movie before the book, unless I can get my hands on another copy.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Charles Dickens

If there's anyone better at creating bizarre characters and plots that LIVE, that in fact swirl like raging tempests, I don't know who it is. I got sucked into watching television last night, because Bleak House was on. It was the first of six episodes on Masterpiece Theatre, and I don't know why anyone would have bothered to watch anything else, this was so riveting. I was, of course, reading in the next room, and my husband suddenly yelled out "Bleak House, Bleak House!!" I came in to see what the fuss was all about and two hours went by before I blinked again. When it ended, I realized I was actually sitting on the edge of my seat. Now, I've never read Bleak House. But I find that I have a copy on the shelf at the shop. It is, in fact, sitting in front of me at this very moment. So, my dilemma is this: read and find out what happens, because I don't know if I can stand the suspense of waiting through five more episodes, or don't read and stick it out and be surprised, then go and read the book through afterwards? Do I have time this week to take on a 600-page novel? Great Expectations is one of my all-time favorite novels, so I'm not completely Dickens-deprived. Dickens certainly would have approved of the miniseries format, too, so many of his novels were originally issued in parts. What to do, what to do...


E-books Part III

I haven't been blogging much lately because, among many other things, I've been spending far too much time lost in the truly fabulous blog of incognito literary agent Miss Snark. Anyone who has even the faintest interest in how books get from author to agent to publisher to bookstore to reader should take a good long look. Her writing is sharp, snappy, funny, generous, and intelligent. She sums up how I feel about e-books in her post on the subject yesterday.

Saturday, January 21, 2006



This is another bit of ephemera I found in a book recently, circa 1950. If only all publishers would provide bookmarks with their books. At a library sale one summer I came across an entire box of Patrick O'Brian novels - I happily pounced on them, and didn't realize until I got them back to the shop that their previous owner had dog-eared every other page in every single book. Did the owner stop reading every other page? Or use the dog-ears to mark a significant passage? But if each page was that good, why not just re-read the entire book?! I silently cursed him/her as I sat and straightened each page. The irony is that Norton, who published the O'Brian books, did provide free bookmarks with the Aubrey/Maturin series, and very nice ones, at that. Browsing this morning through The Book-Lovers' Anthology (Oxford, 1911) I came across this:

"Is not the leaf turned down
Where I left reading?"
- Shakespeare. Julius Caesar.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


What worked for me

I was working in a new-book store after college when the book-bug really bit me. Between buying books at work, and lolling around in the stacks of the fine library close by, I fell, and fell hard. One of the first books I found that gave me the information I most wanted about collecting books is the classic ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter. I bought the Knopf fifth edition, as that was the last edition that Carter himself edited before he died, although the seventh edition is currently in print from Oak Knoll, and is co-edited by Nicolas Barker, the worthy scholar and bibliophile, so that is also well worth having. I like the understated look of the fifth edition, though. Whatever edition you end up with, here's what happened to me when I first encountered this book: I sat on the bus on the way home from work that day and ate it up like I was starving. And almost fifteen years later, I still refer to it often, and keep it with my most-used reference books right behind my desk. It is an alphabetical list, with complete and often funny definitions, of terms someone who was, say, reading a bookseller's catalogue, would need to know: bibliographic terms, types of bindings, materials, parts of books, standard reference materials known to most antiquarian dealers, and the like. What are crushed morocco bindings? Deckle edges? Galley proofs? Why is provenance important? What are points, and what is a variant? The TLS called this book "An answer to the book-collector's prayer." It opened up a whole world to me, one I knew I would inhabit for the rest of my life. That's what books do. More on John Carter in the future.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Working in the shop after being away...

...is always a joy. The first thing I do when I open the door is smile and ask everyone how they're doing (the books, that is). It's like walking into a room full of old friends.

I'm getting caught up with email and messages from my long weekend off, and I had an email from a new customer, Todd, who was in last week and was waxing enthusiastic about books in general, and a book he just bought and read at my shop in particular: "...I find myself gleaming with enthusiasm." How nice is that phrase, particularly when it relates to books. He wants advice for a beginning book collector, so here it is: Buy what you love. Simple. What themes are you passionate about? English poetry, cookery, Turkish history, musicology, books published in the U.S. before 1800, Australian autobiographies, the history of roofing nails? Find the fields that you love deeply and often irrationally, and find out what books are considered the best in those fields - "best" is somewhat subjective, perhaps "classic" is a better term. Or "any" if your subjects of interest are obscure enough. Visit all the used bookshops you possibly can and hoover up all the books in those fields. Read them. Keep them neatly arranged in sturdy bookcases. Warning: this is habit-forming and will consume vast swaths of your lifetime. Luckily, it's heaven, and it's FUN.

A few reading suggestions for anyone who loves books but doesn't know how to begin collecting:

Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, St. Martin's, 1998. Gentle, easy reading about a book-loving couple who discovers the world of used books and booksellers. I think the jacket blurb for this said it was like A Year in Provence for booklovers. That about covers it - like a macaroon, it is light and fluffy, but enjoyable. If you like it, the authors have written several other books-about-books in a similar vein.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2000. Lovely essays about being a book fanatic from a bookish family. My kind of bookish book. Highly recommended.

A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes, Owl, 1999. Scholarly and well-researched journalism on the history of book collecting and a few of the odd characters attracted to this lifestyle. If this is your cup of tea (as it surely is mine), rush out and buy all of Basbanes's other books.

Just a few. I've already mentioned others below, either in posts or comments, that bear repeating: of course, 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. And Sixpence House by Paul Collins (which is the very book that had Todd agleam, in case anyone was wondering).

Friday, January 13, 2006


E-books Part II

Okay. Deep breath. Here it is, it will hit the market this spring. This thing, with its "Impressive, Paper-like Display." Is this what our society has come to? Apparently so, because here it is. It resembles a pop-tart more than a book (apologies to the hard-working design team at Sony, but it's just not my cup of tea, I am not gadget-minded. I might like it better if it looked even more like a pop-tart, come to think of it). However, on the bright side, things like THIS are still being produced! Now we're talking! Hallelujah! Long live the BOOK!

The first item sells for between three and five hundred dollars, by the way. The second item sells for thirteen thousand dollars. I'd rather have the second. I covet the second, let's just come right out and say it.

I'll be on a mini-vacation until early next week. Cabin fever, and the January Thaw, are upon me and I'm heading for the hills for a few days. I'm sure I'll buy some books somewhere along the way.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


More tools for the aspiring bookseller

Buying and selling used and rare books hinges on knowledge. What to buy, how much to pay, how to price books to sell, what is worth something to someone, and what is worth nothing to anyone, at any price. For great sources of book-knowledge, subscribe to Firsts and to Fine Books & Collections. Read them cover to cover! The former is on modern first edition collecting, and has in-depth articles on individual authors, with bibliographies and market values for collectible books, and often entire issues about certain genres of fiction. The latter has everything from auction news and book reviews to columns by Nicholas Basbanes and, this month, Paul Collins. Plus many pretty color pictures of books. Yum. Both magazines are class acts and give readers a real sense of what's happening in the world of old books. The advertising is good too, for antiquarian book fairs and individual dealers. The more knowledge you can soak up in this business, the better your chances are of recognizing a good book when you see one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


And one more thing -

The hubbub this week over A Million Little Pieces is most interesting. I haven't read it, but I've heard from other readers how shocking it is, and now it turns out that significant chunks of it may be fiction. I wonder why Oprah didn't choose Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Norton, 2004), or Augusten Burroughs's Dry (St. Martin's, 2003), if she wanted a fine memoir fraught with alchohol abuse and redemption, not to mention great writing. Oh, and true.

Now, about that word, hubbub. I hadn't spelled that out for quite a while, and it had me wondering. So, off to The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology: in part - confused noise, as of shouting; Irish hooboobbes; the hobub or hue and crie; noisy disturbances; Irish abu used in battle-cries; Gaelic ub! ubub! int. of aversion or contempt, ubh, ubh int. of disgust or amazement; the Irish hubbabowe, Spenser. That just about covers it.


Google and e-books

Interesting news today about Google and one possible future of those little oblong chunks of paper we all love so much. Whenever I read an article like this I wonder why the author doesn't distinguish somehow between plain old information availability (Must read Jane Eyre for English class, need cheap edition) and die-hard book-love (Oh, how I would love a first edition of Jane Eyre, but this lovely old hardcover will do for now...). If I wanted just the information contained in a book, I wouldn't care if I had to read it on a computer screen or not. But that's not all I want. I want traditional BOOKS. They take up space - good, they are beautiful, sitting there on the shelves. They are old-fashioned - good, publishing real books is a tradition that can live on forever, as far as I'm concerned. Don't tell me that any e-book that anyone cares to invent will be as attractive, convenient, loveable, comforting, easy to interface with, etc., as a plain old regular book. Rant over.


Generosity and Kindness

My friend Sue bought some books from me recently. Some very good books, and I was feeling magnanimous and grateful, and I gave her a discount (the famous Friend-of-Sarah-Discount), which I reserve the right to give out whenever I damn well please, since I'm in charge here. The next day Sue called me and said, "I think you gave me too much of a discount." She was talking me up in price.

And today a guy stopped in with a carton of books to sell me. He had a whole stack of Charles Bukowski books from Black Sparrow Press, and a nice copy of Death on the Installment Plan, some T.C. Boyle, the Fagles translation of The Odyssey, and a few other good books. All very saleable, and my kind of books. I sorted out what I wanted and offered him $35 in cash or $40 in trade. He said he would normally take the trade, but he just couldn't bring home any more books right now - he and his wife were about to move. Then he said, "But how about $25, not $35? I want to support the shop."

I choose to believe that people are generous and kind; this is what my customers teach me about human nature. What a great business this is.

Monday, January 09, 2006


My packages finally arrived, however...

...so the day was not a bust by any means. One contained several books signed by Mark Helprin. The store at his website, which I've mentioned before, offers signed books for sale at well-below-retail prices, with free shipping if you spend over $25. The Pacific and Other Stories. Just a suggestion. Again.


January blues

I sold a few books today (inlcuding the Tao te Ching and a sweet book on repairing books) to two good customers who always drop by when they are in town. Other than that it's been quiet and the snow's been lightly falling all day and I don't think I've seen the sun in several days now and I am thinking of taking some vitamin D and seeing if that helps the situation in general. The good news is that I just mailed my quarterly taxes in and am still in business. The bad news is that there's a two-day rare book auction nearby this weekend that I'd like to attend, but as I said, I just mailed my taxes, so the cupboards are a bit bare. There are over 400 old Baedeker travel guides at this auction (I love old travel books, and 400 Baedekers, wow), signed books by George Bernard Shaw, Yeats, A.A. Milne (a first edition of The House at Pooh Corner, also signed by Shepard), and Anthony Trollope, lots of leatherbound sets (the Nonesuch Shakespeare, for one) and single-volume fine bindings, and some fine Americana. Mmmmm. I don't even dare to preview.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Local guy's best books of the year

I thought this was good. He reads, and deeply loves books. I haven't seen him in my shop, though, and he only lives a mile or two away. Someday!


Why collect anything besides books?

Well. Books are wonderful, we all agree on that. But bookish ephemera is fine too - I've already posted below about booksellers's tickets and labels. And bookplates are a vast field of collecting I've barely ventured into. My friend Gary has a huge collection of bookplates, and he copied this for me, because it's the bookplate of a distant relative on the old family tree.

So why collect ephemera - this is a perfect example of why. I mean, look at it! Great design, with humor and erudition all in one. "Whence. Whither. Wherefore?" Yes, those penguins all have books tucked underneath their wings. This would be even better if the bookplates were all in a collection of books about polar exploration, but that I cannot verify. The bookplate dates from the 1890s. Just thought I'd share it, it's so weird and wonderful .

And a very happy Twelfth Night, a day late. The mailman never did visit yesterday in the snow, and today all I got was junk mail. Still waiting for those book packages...

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I'm usually closed on Thursdays

But I was open Thursdays in December, and I'm feeling under the weather - so I can either sit and read at home, and wait until I feel better, or sit here and read, ditto. Either way, I'm surrounded by books, and relative quiet. And the bookshop is three blocks from home, so here I am. Plus, I am eagerly awaiting the mail carrier - I went on an end-of-the-year buying spree online and am sure my books will arrive today. Spoken like a true biblioholic.

Speaking of which, I'm browsing in The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes, edited by James Sutherland, 1975. Starts with Caedmon and the Venerable Bede and ends with Dylan Thomas. Has E.J. Trelawny's narrative of the death and cremation of Shelley (Ian, if you're reading this). Has many fine descriptions of books, writing, reading, bookshops, wits, and authors on other authors. Has much humor and much pathos. One of my favorite entries is by James Lackington, Bookseller (1746-1815), pp.116-117, this must be one of the first instances in print of someone using their food money to buy books instead. Lackington says, after his wife berates him for spending the money he was supposed to be buying their Christmas dinner with, "...I began to harangue on the superiority of intellectual pleasures over sensual gratifications..." It's distracting me, but where oh where is that mailman...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


A few blogs of note

Well, here I thought I was the only secondhand bookseller blogging in Maine, about books at least, and I find out that my colleague and friend Ian has been blogging (rather wittily, I might add) for months. Ian Kahn - what a wonderful name for someone who is clearly destined to become the next A.S.W. Rosenbach. Seriously, he's the cat's meow. RARE books, not just the used and medium-rare trifles I deal with in my little bookshop. And a real booklover to boot, he doesn't just talk the talk. He is reeeeaalllly obsessed with books and book-lore and will go far in this business.

And I heard back from my mystery customer - the fellow who bought a book at my shop (bless him) and then asked if I was the blogger. Brendan has a fine blog he's just started up, and I look forward to reading his posts, bookish and otherwise.

Is this blogger etiquette - when someone mentions you on their blog, you do the same for them? Well, in these two cases, most happy to oblige. As I told Brendan, this is a great way for bookish introverts to check in with each other. This is not to say that Ian and Brendan are introverts, but I certainly am, so this makes communication a bit easier on my end.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Bookwoman's holiday

I took the day off on Monday, and got out of town. What was I doing? Visiting other people's bookshops, of course. I get tired of looking at my own books and need to see someone else's. One of my favorite stops is the Big Chicken Barn on Route 1 between Ellsworth and Bucksport. Over 120,000 books. Most I am utterly uninterested in, but I can easily spend a happy two hours seeking out the ones I am interested in. This trip, I came away with two grocery bags of books for under $100. A few things to read, and the rest for my shop. Books by Penelope Lively, T.C. Boyle, Ronald Firbank, John Thorne, Richard Feynman, etc., a biography of Ian Fleming, a book I haven't yet read by "The Author of Elizabeth & Her German Garden" (another favorite of mine, the author's real name was Elizabeth von Arnim - she also wrote The Enchanted April and numerous other books), a thick book on medieval book-making, a small and charming antiquarian book about wildflowers in the Berkshires (1880, $4), and a few things I always like to have in stock, like the Oxford Book of English Verse, for one, which I sold last week. Some days I think that's why I'm in this business - so I can buy. I think I bought 25 books in all. At a good library sale, I might buy 10 cartons of books. Gluttony!


January in a used bookshop in Maine

In a word, slow. I didn't sell any books today, although I had a few browsers stop in. I did sell a book on Amazon, however. That's the way it goes! And here I sit shuffling papers and thinking about paying my taxes. In the spirit of the season, here's a reading suggestion: Herbert Faulkner West's Modern Book Collecting for the Impecunious Amateur, Little, Brown, 1936. I've read this before, but was browsing in it again before Christmas. The author keeps going on and on about one of his favorite authors, one R. B. Cunninghame Graham. I mean on and on to the point where you as a reader (me, that is) says "Ok, ok, just who the heck is this Cunninghame Graham, anyway?" Then Dan, one of the three regular readers of this blog, comments below after a best-of-the-year post that one of his bests is a Cunninghame Graham book. Now I'm really interested. After all, Dan shares a love of Christopher Morley with me, so I am apt to view his other reading interests with favor.

My well-worn copy of Benet's The Reader's Encyclopedia tells us that C.G. was a close friend of Conrad, W.H. Hudson (who I have a shelf of at home), and G.B. Shaw. "He was rover and an eccentric, a great horseman, and always a fine writer." High praise from Benet, who incidentally was one of Christopher Morley's dearest friends. So I am off on the trail, bookhunting again. Herbert Faulkner West, as is evident from reading his fine book, was a personal friend of C.G., as well as a collector of his books. Dan, seek it out - in the introduction he quotes from Dreamthorp at length. Good books always lead to other good books, one of West's points in his book.

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