Friday, March 31, 2006


Escape in books

Frank Conroy's Stop-Time won out over Fever Pitch (which I'm starting tonight and will report back on sometime soon), and I finished reading it late last night. Stop-Time reminds me in several ways of journalist Rick Bragg's fine southern memoir All Over but the Shoutin', which I read a few years ago. In both the protagonists recount their early lives, their bizarre and broken family relationships, the struggle to break out of the powerlessness and brutality of childhood and finally escape as adults into the truth of the wider world. Both books use beautiful language to dispassionately describe often ugly life events as they unfold. Both books are so American. Here's a long passage from Stop-Time about the high school:

"The five-minute warning bell had rung. I sat with my ankles on the railing reading a novel about the Second World War. I should have used the time to do my homework, but the appeal of Nazis, French girls, K rations, and sunlight slanting through the forest while men attempted to kill one another was too great. I read four or five hours every night at home, but it was never quite as sweet as in school, when even a snatch read as I climbed the stairs seemed to protect me from my surroundings with an efficacy that bordered on the magical. And if the story dealt with questions of life and death, so much the better. How could I be seriously worried about having nothing to hand in at Math when I was pinned in a shallow foxhole, under a mortar barrage, a dead man across my back and an hysterical young lieutenant weeping for his mother at my side? I could not resist the clarity of the world in books, the incredibly satisfying way in which life became weighty and accessible. Books were reality. I hadn't made up my mind about my own life, a vague, dreamy affair, amorphous and dimly perceived, without beginning or end."

And here's a shorter passage about Frank Conroy's desire to be a writer, I particularly loved this:

"I read very fast, uncritically, and without retention, seeking only to escape from my own life through the imaginative plunge into another.... The real world dissolved and I was free to drift in fantasy, living a thousand lives, each one more powerful, more accessible, and more real than my own. It was around this time that I first thought of becoming a writer. In a cheap novel the hero was asked his profession at a cocktail party. 'I'm a novelist,' he said, and I remember putting the book down and thinking, my God what a beautiful thing to be able to say."

I'll cut this off without quoting Rick Bragg, but I may go back and re-read him soon. I love reading memoirs of childhood, particularly memoirs in which the author escapes or triumphs, no matter what form that escape takes (often success, fame even, or simply self-sufficiency), and I'm so glad I finally read Stop-Time - it's been on my mind for years. Looking at the beginning of Fever Pitch, I can see that I'm in for another such book, in a way.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Back after a day off

I just house-sat (and cat-sat, more importantly) for my vacationing sister. Her house is only an hour and a half away, but instead of commuting back and forth for two nights, I put a 'closed' sign on the door and grabbed the chance to visit a nearby bookshop that I haven't been to since its transformation from a used recordshop to a used recordshop and bookshop, The Record Connection, in Waterville. Great books in a tidy shop, my favorite thing! I bought a carton of books, most of which were for stock, including a stack of very inexpensive early Modern Library editions with dust jackets. I bought a few things to read, too, which I've wanted for a long while: Stop-Time by Frank Conroy, and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. I've known for years that I wanted to read these, but haven't seen them in any of the used bookshops in the area (and I've mentioned before the wee problem I have when taking books out of the local library - these books are now mine, MINE!).

The Conroy book is mentioned again and again in books about books and writing as one of the finest and most well-written memoirs of the 20th century. Perhaps that's why I never see used copies; people are keeping it, it's so good. The Hornby book is the only one of his I haven't read yet. I'd love to find a first edition some day, but good luck, I tell myself, because it's scarce and expensive. Why I am still buying books for myself I do not know. It's not like I have anywhere to put them, at this point. Speaking of which, this article (courtesy of Bookninja) addresses that very issue. Those books, they do tend to pile up, don't they?

In other news, I've finished my taxes and find that I operated at a loss this past year. I remain philosophical, even sanguine, about this point, because (among other reasons) during the past four years I've had a steady rate of growth and hence a healthy profit. I mentioned my poor year to my bookdealer pal yesterday and he snorted with laughter - "Profit!? Hahaha..." which sums up the used-stuff business pretty well.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Buckle my swash

Once a year or so I develop a yen for some good swashbuckling novels. This craving often strikes after I've spent too much time reading "serious" fiction (whatever that is - we know it when we see it, however). I've got a few favorites that I re-read faithfully every few years - I find that if I let some time pass between readings I will have forgotten just enough of the plots to make the books nearly new again (I can read fiction quite quickly but have very poor retention, a plus in my view). So, here they are, a few swordplay-containing worthies:

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (1905). Wonderful, satisfying froth. My old paperback reprint is battered from being jammed into carry-on luggage and trip-to-the-beach bags.

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini (1921). When I worked at a new-book store many years ago, I ordered a hardcover reprint for a local mathematics professor. When the book arrived, he picked it up, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "Miss Faragher (he always called me that), I love this book, and I will always love this book, because it shows me that a person can always abandon a perfectly respectable career and become a PIRATE!" Arrr!

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer (I think the first edition was published in 1926, I have a 1950s reprint). Her best? Perhaps someone will argue with me about that. My favorite, at least. The Masqueraders might be my second favorite. I read this for the first time about age 12, with many of her other romances. At the time, I also used to read Barbara Cartland (oh, the shame...), but thankfully no longer! Unlike other romance novelists, I've found Heyer to have staying power, largely due to her neat plots, humor, and very witty dialogue.

The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett (1960s-1970s, but still available new in quality paper reprints from Vintage). A series of six novels, and if you take this on, dear readers, be prepared to be utterly consumed for several weeks. They are densely written and have a compelling urgency that kept me reading late into the night, again and again. My friend Sue told me to read them. Several times. Then she said that Lymond is her favorite fictional hero of all time. She had a fanatical light in her eye, and when I happened across the first few volumes at a library sale, I remembered that glint.

There are others, but I'll keep it at that for today. These are what I turn to for sheer escapism, after I've finished Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brian and still want to dwell in a time and place other than present-day Maine. I am not particularly drawn to mysteries or fantasy/sci-fi, so this is where I go instead. Buckle my swash! Or as Daffy Duck would say, "Odds my bodkins..."

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Snail mail

I received this old book cover postcard in the mail today from my bookish friend Bob. The fine print at the top, not quite legible in the picture below, reads: "THE IDEAL BOOK CLUB / Books must not be loaned - Penalty - / Automatic Suspension from club." What a ruthless bunch of 'ladies who lunch' they must have been! We can only look back on them with pity, and wonder how many were finally suspended when all was said and done. This sums up neatly why I myself am not a member of a book group - I'd inevitably go off on a reading tangent and never finish the book at hand.

I don't know what the above book was, by the way. It does have a very nice little gilt device on the front cover, with the initials "EPD Co" for E.P. Dutton, and an owl on a branch. 1930s, I'd say. Thanks, Bob!

Friday, March 24, 2006


"Rebel Bookseller" part two

Of course I should have checked before completing the previous post, but now I find that the aforementioned Andy Laties has his very own site and blog. He says this as a last bit of financial advice for the person struggling to open a bookshop:

"Use the Power Of The Weak. Right now you can specialize in looking poor and enthusiastic. Ready to humiliate yourself. People love that. They'll want to join right in. Get the neighborhood fanatical about you."

From experience, this works! Discriminating book buyers love weird little shops! His book is targeted at chain-bookstore employees who yearn for their own shops, but it looks to have useful information for any people of the bookish persuasion. I'm ordering a copy for immediate inclusion in my collection of books written by booksellers.


Booksellers who blog

I've stumbled across a few more, the first via Grumpy Old Bookman, British bookseller The Bedside Crow, and here's a sample:

"I knew nothing but the absolute joy of my stock; moted sunlight fading hardbacks in the window, of dumpbins of Leighton and Ludlum, of Wicked Willie, of Provence was what the punter saw; Delia bought our dinners, our gread and gutter (sic??) was the eighties bulge in print, retail expense accounts. But beneath the dust and filthy black fingernails, papercuts and invoice shortages, our shop soiled souls ached for literature."

I spent part of the late 80s working in a new-book store, and this sums up how I felt back then. It was all worth it, the drudgery, to be near good books. It still is, come to think of it.

The second via Bookfinder: the Bibliophile Bullpen. I like this post in particular, by guest blogger Andy Laties, about his book Rebel Bookseller: How to Improvise Your Own Indie Store and Beat Back the Chains (from Vox Pop, quoted here in part):

"As authors once had to fight to be paid for their writing, today independent booksellers and indie publishers are fighting to be paid for our own efforts. No chain-store systemized attack on indie stores--with hourly-wages for those would-be indie booksellers forced by default into chains' employment--can long endure. Wage slavery will lead to Rebellion; Masters of Capital, we'll see you in hell."

I have yet to get a copy of this book, but it's now officially on my internal and ever-growing want list. The Bullpen also has a good recent post on the ubiquitous usefulness of bone folders. Handy little things, for sure. Also, sometime soon I'll delve into their blogroll, which looks to have many links worth clicking.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Don't wait!

A fellow came by this morning and browsed for a while, and as we chatted as he was leaving, he said, "After I retire, I think I'll open a bookshop." I said, "Good god, don't wait until you retire!" He looked like he was in his 40s. That's a long time to wait for the bookshop of your dreams. So many people tell me that they've always wanted their own bookshops. Instead they are sitting in cubicles doing data entry, driving trucks, teaching, day-trading, or what-have-you, and when they go on vacation they visit used bookshops like mine. Makes me sad.

In non-book news, I can't believe that the Pats let Adam Vinatieri go (to the Colts, no less, arg!). Is nothing sacred? A rhetorical question, obviously, since next to nothing remains sacred in professional sports.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


No more whining allowed (or aloud, for that matter)

I don't know why I was whining yesterday. Please excuse me. I'm here in my bookshop living the good life, after all. And even though it's a slow time of year, I've still had plenty of pals stopping in to chat and buy books in the past week: Ben, Todd, Vicky and Mimi, and Michael, to name a few. Books sold include The Quotable Book Lover, The Odyssey, Stuart Little, a few of the Foxfire books, a nice late 1800s Arabian Nights (the Richard Burton translation), Rodale's Cut Your Bills in Half, all kinds of good stuff.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology tells us that the word whine comes from Old English: to utter a low somewhat shrill protracted sound (once the droning flight of an arrow); and from Old Norse: to whistle in the air. I like the British variant, whinge, a more pleasing word, somehow. No more whining, or whinging, I promise!

Happy first full day of spring, everyone.

Monday, March 20, 2006


There's noooothing gooooing oooooooon

Life at the shop is soooo sloooooow at the moment. Lots of time to read! I'm sorry I haven't been blogging much over the past few weeks, dear readers. It's March, in near-rural Maine. No library sales until next month. No housecalls lately. Not many customers, for that matter. It's a month for chasing bits of paper for my accountant (that would be Ryan), spring cleaning (is the snow really over for the year? is it safe to mop the hardwood floors? do my plants need pruning? are those bookshelves just too dusty or can I wait another few weeks?), getting ready for the upcoming season (my business was down overall this year, I find from doing my taxes, what will the year ahead bring?). All these compelling *compelling I say* subjects I could write about at length in this forum, but I am convinced if I did so I'd lose the three readers I have. So. Things will pick up soon. Back to the books.

I just finished The Art Spirit by painter and art teacher Robert Henri. He says this about reading:

"We read books. They make us think. It matters very little whether we agree with the books or not." (p.188)

I don't know if I agree with that last bit or not, I'll have to think about it. And then there's this:

"There are many kinds of study. Those whose study is of the real and rare kind get the habit. They can't throw it off. It's too good. They go on studying all their lives, and they have wonderful lives." (p.198)

And finally this:

"I have just laid down a book and the caress of my hand was for the man who wrote it, for the great human sympathy of the man and his revealing gift to me through the book. I have never seen the man, do not know his outside, but I am intimately acquainted with him." (p.113)

A lovely description of how books work, from author to reader. As I read, I keep a small running list of quotations I want to copy out of the book when I'm done reading a particular book - I note the page number and first word or two. This list doubles as a bookmark. Then once a week or so I go through all the books I've been reading and copy the quotations into my commonplace book/journal. I like being able to look back over the years and see what I was reading when, and what I copied out, what I thought was important enough at that time to take note of, literally. I can look back on things like this, my favorite passage in the Henri book:

"A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods." (p.49)

Books - as good as they ever were. I'm headed home for a quiet evening of reading.

Friday, March 17, 2006


A great way to spend MANY, MANY HOURS

No, not reading, this time. Over the past few weeks I've listened to many of the fine interviews from Don Swaim's old CBS radio show, Book Beat. The great thing about these interviews: not only did he talk with almost every author you've ever heard of and admired, but also the online versions are the long versions (thirty minutes to an hour), unedited, and largely unscripted, not the edited, two-minute final on-air versions. The good folks at Wired for Books at Ohio University are to be commended. What a gift! And I've barely scratched the surface with these; I've listened to a few of my favorites, but my god, I've got a business to run, and Pepys's Diary to finish. Forget hours, we're talking DAYS.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


A little bit of Jane Austen effusion

During a visit with my sister over the weekend we watched the new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. She'd rented a few dvds and we were all tired from the this and that busyness of the day, so we sprawled out on the couch and got lost in the late eighteenth century for two hours. Not the most convincing Elizabeth Bennet I've ever seen, but not bad. A very fine Mr. Darcy, however, and I loved both the scenery (Chatsworth! and Burghley House!) and the natural, unmannered, looser overall feel of the whole film. I read somewhere (and now can't find it so am paraphrasing) that the makers of the film set it in the late 1790s, when Austen actually wrote the novel, so the styles of dress are different than those from the later (and more traditional for Austen adaptations) high regency period of the book's actual publication date of 1813. Verdict on the film: loved it, will watch it again, felt like the filmmakers tinkered with and took some chances with the Austen canon and ultimately pulled it off.

My usual modus operandi after seeing a good period film is this: the film is never long enough, I always want more, so I must go and find more. This is a roundabout way of saying that I re-read Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time yesterday. It had been a few years, and of course I know all the twists and turns of the plot, there are few surprises at this point, but the ending still has to be one of the most satisfying of any novel I know. It was wonderful to drop everything else I knew I should be doing, and just read all day, just lose myself in the world Austen so exquisitely recreated on paper. With this reading I was struck by the quickness of her dialogue and the wittiness of her main characters' conversation. It's still not quite enough, perhaps I'll seek out the BBC Pride and Prejudice this weekend.


Another good reason to subscribe

I've mentioned Fine Books & Collections magazine recently - well, I got my new issue in the mail and saw an item I just had to pass on to you, dear readers. Their "Digest" section has an article about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (UK). The article notes that there will be a cricket match between members of the ABA and the PBFA (Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association). No date has been set for the match yet, but we can keep track of that at the ABA website, along with with the other details of their centenary celebration (including a ball - a ball - at the Royal Geographical Society). Cricket - an ideal sport for us glasses-wearing, bookish, literary types who secretly yearn to be athletic? A sport suited to the temperament of a bookseller? Or is this just what I imagine it to be, as an American who knows nothing about cricket... I guess I want it to be more than the equivalent of a softball game at the annual company party. However it turns out, what fun.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Booksellers pray for rainy weekends

Today it's sunny and in the 40s for the first time in weeks, so apart from a few die-hard regulars (Thanks Hal! Thanks Ali!), I've had a very quiet day here at the shop. Which is just fine with me - the last few shop days have been too busy for my liking. I tend to get flustered if I have too much business, hence too much to do. This was catch-up morning: balancing checkbooks and returning phone calls and dispersing the books that pile up on my desk like snowdrifts over the course of a given week (keep? read? sell? shelve? take home? save for a certain customer? on and on it goes). And to catch up here, there are a few things I wanted to comment on from the week just past:

Author and used & rare book dealer Larry McMurtry's Oscar acceptance speech (co-writer of the screenplay adaptation of the E. Annie Proulx story that became the film Brokeback Mountain) thanked the booksellers of the world. I didn't see it because I only watched the first fifteen minutes of the Oscars and then got bored and went in the other room to read, but one of my sisters saw McMurtry's speech and said she felt a glow of pride for me and my kind ("That's my sister he's talking about!"). First bookseller to win a Golden Globe (for same) and first to win an Oscar, and what a fine writer he is, and champion of the book. Someday soon I want to visit McMurtry's bookshop in his hometown of Archer City, Texas. Anyone been there? I hear the half-million or so books are good, very very good.

After my David Foster Wallace reading jag I came across an article that referred to his style of writing as Hysterical Realism. DFW and Jonathan Safran Foer and Rick Moody and Jonathan Franzen and sometimes Dave Eggers tell all at an often frantic written pace, and what a perfect and funny literary term for these wordy guys. And how refreshing to have a group of men be called hysterical, for a change. Then I read a wiki article that says that a literary critic first coined this term more than five years ago in a review of a Zadie Smith novel. Oh well. Why be gender-specific here (or anywhere). I'm years behind the times. I still like it. Maximalism!

Finally, this statement from the Authors Guild about the Google free-books-for-all project was mighty interesting, and it is worth reading for figuring out the distinctions in what Google is proposing (and is actually doing). I'm going to be watching with interest to see what happens with this; it could have far-reaching effects on both new and used book businesses. And here I am using Google's great free blog service, which I love, what's a girl to do.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The Loeb Classical Library and the TLS

I love to put my feet up and read the TLS, my favorite book review. I read the paper copy whenever I can get my hands on it, but have also recently started reading online as well, particularly since I discovered the blog of TLS editor Peter Stothard. One of his posts from late February covers the imminent 500th title in the Loeb Classical Library. Sir Peter says:

"Every early edition of the Loeb Classical Library carried the sponsor's message, 'A word about its purpose and its scope', which attacked the turn-of-the-century rush for mechanical and social achievement and what was then the neglect of the humanities.

(Loeb) admired the way in which any Parisian could buy cheap copies of Latin and Greek texts, with a simple parallel translation into their language. He wanted English readers to have the same."

A great article on a great humanist publishing legacy. A few years ago I put together a decent collection of Loeb Classics for a good customer, and as I packed them up to ship them away to him, I had such a pang of regret about selling them. There are more out there, I know, I see at least a few in most used bookshops I visit. Still, I had them in my hands, and I let them go. Who wouldn't want an entire wall of Loebs, their distinctive red and green covers in tidy rows.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


The hard sell rears its ugly head again

I usually read a book-blog or two while I have lunch, and today, courtesy of Bookninja, I read this at the Guardian. How great to see a major publisher taking a stand on this issue. Applause to Bloomsbury, and a big boo to Google and their book-scamming, oh, I mean -scanning, project. One more reason to continue buying completely commercial-free new and used hardcover books (as if we booklovers really needed more reasons).


More Signs of Spring

Over the last several days I've had a few bookdealers stop in, some looking like groundhogs emerging from their little burrows to see if the sun is out for good or not. This happens every year at about this time. I think it's an ancient migratory urge of some kind that now affects only secondhand shopkeepers. We ask each other what's been happening, how has business been, found any good books lately, did you go to that big book auction, make it through the winter ok? Here comes another season. I like the camaradarie of this business. It's great to catch up.

Other folks are dusting themselves off, too, however. I've also just had the first batch of people in who want try to sell their old books to a shop before they put them in their upcoming spring yard sale for a dime apiece. Most times, these books are not lovely. They are, in fact, ten-cent yard sale books. Once in a while, though...

Monday, March 06, 2006


Signs of Spring

The cold snap is over, thank goodness, and I hope that's the last we see of it this year. My husband, henceforth to be known as Ryan, since I can't just keep calling him "my husband" over and over on this blog, and I went for a long walk yesterday in Acadia National Park. Two inches of very soft snow on the ground made the carriage road feel like we were walking on sand. Five and a half miles around Eagle Lake, the sky was blue as blue can be. The only people we saw were either out icefishing on the lake, or at the parking lot. One more reason I love Maine, nearly absolute solitude is always close by, even in a national park. The walk was good for both of us; Ryan needed to stretch his legs without running, and since I don't run, I just needed to get out into the woods and see what's what.

Last weekend in Massachusetts we saw canada geese and a huge flock of fat robins, and I hope they've made it to Maine by now. I walk through a nearby park every morning on my way to the bookshop, and today I heard some songbirds, but I don't know what they were, other than happy to see the sun, like me. When will the migrating tourists return? Months from now, but that's ok, I don't like to be too busy at the shop. Well, I've got big business to attend to, such as vacuuming (oh, the romance and glamour of running your own shop...) and plant-watering, so I will wish everyone a happy Monday in the high 30s to low 40s. Find a sunny window in which to curl up and read, if you get a chance, that's all I have to say about books at the moment.

Friday, March 03, 2006


One more find from last weekend

Here's the lone book I bought at Commonwealth Books, Monday last: The Booklover's Almanac, compiled and edited by Robert Brittain (Frederic Beil, 1986). $10. I have a softcover already, and have now upgraded to this fine hardcover in dust jacket. I'm particularly fond of literary daybooks and almanacs. This one offers snippets of history and literature from 1066 to the present day, and is a wonderful book for random browsing. Not so random: March 3 tells us that on this day in 1817 Poems by John Keats, his first book, was published. The entry includes a congratulatory sonnet from a friend, and Keats's epistolary reply.

I am assuming that the great jacket illustration is copyright-free, as there is no mention of the artist or source either on the jacket or in the book itself.

The author quotes John Bunyan on one of the preliminary pages:

"The Author's Apology for His Book"

"Art thou for something rare and profitable?

Wouldest Thou see a Truth within a Fable?

Art thou forgetful? Wouldest thou remember

From New-year's day to the last of December?

Then read my Fancies, they will stick like Burrs,

And may be to the Helpless, Comforters."

And speaking of things rare and profitable, I heard recently from Scott, the editor at Fine Books & Collections magazine, and he thought my readers (all three of you) would enjoy this. For me, after shopping for good books for under (often way under, being a thrifty Yankee indeed) twenty bucks each, it was fun to read about the other end of the spectrum. I myself would have liked item #68 (the Philobiblon, I have two 20th century reprints, but not a first edition, of course). And I'd love to sit and flip through the letters of item #81 (Winslow Homer is one of my favorite painters). Mmm. Thanks, Scott!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I'm settled in again...

...after the general chaos of being away. My travel philosophy: I love leaving, and I love coming home even more. "Talk about the joys of the unexpected, can they compare with the joys of the expected, of finding everything delightfully and completely what you knew it was going to be?" (Elizabeth Bibesco, Balloons, quoted in Christopher Morley's Book of Days for 1931)

When I'm on a book-hunting trip I'm of course always keeping a weather eye out for Morley titles. This time, all I could come up with was this:

Which I of course already own, in other formats, but not in the Sun Dial Library (Garden City Publishing, 1923), with this great paper jacket. The back cover states: "The Vogue of The Small Book: Compactness is the modern note. In houses, cars, furniture - in everything we moderns possess - the smart thing is the small one. And now, the small book!" I found this at the Brattle Book Shop, for $1 (to balance out yesterday's $25 book). One Dollar, I'll say it again. Love it. The only other Morley book I was tempted by, but ended up not buying, was a good copy of his anthology Fifth Avenue Bus with a very nice gift inscription and signature by Morley inside the front cover. It was $48, and I'd already spent what I promised myself I'd stick to. Not to mention the fact that I already own a signed copy of this book. If anyone else is interested, it's downstairs at Commonwealth Books, on Boylston, in the literary criticism/authors shelves, alphabetically. Next to it is a little staple-bound pamphlet called something like Christopher Morley's Briefcase, which again, I already have.

Other favorite finds from the weekend: Four Talks for Bibliophiles (Free Library of Philadelphia, 1958), A Busted Bibliophile and His Books by George H. Sargent (Little, Brown, 1928, about A. Edward Newton), The Book-Hunter by John Hill Burton (Routledge, circa 1900), The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac by Eugene Field (Scribner, 1896, I feel that I must always have at least one copy of this book in my shop at all times), a signed copy of Wise Men Fish Here: The Story of Frances Steloff and The Gotham Book Mart by W.G. Rogers (Harcourt, Brace, World, 1965), a signed copy of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel (Viking 1996), and The Love Letters of Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh edited by son Alexander Carlyle, with a nice long gift inscription by him on the front free endpaper (John Lane, 1909). All of these books were priced under $20 each, and most well under that.

The bookshops I visited, in a nutshell:

Titcomb's was very inexpensive, and many of their hardcover books were two and three dollars, but many of the books were musty, so check your books carefully before you buy. The owners had recently purchased several thousand books which wouldn't fit on the shelves, so there were boxes stacked neatly in several corners and aisles on all three floors, with large cloths draped over them. This is their down season, and one of the friendly bookshop ladies told me that they are working hard to get everything ready for spring/summer. The staff was very chatty and relaxed, and one of the shop cats apparently was hitting the intercom downstairs, which was a hoot. I had a great overall experience there.

Brattle Book Shop is long on good books and short on ambience. Love the building, but if it were my shop I'd put in wooden shelving (they have metal industrial shelves, and linoleum on the floors). The Saint Bernard dog on the third floor looks just like a bearskin rug, he/she's HUGE and flat. Rare books are on the third floor, and everything else is on the first two floors. Good sections on literature, poetry, books about books, ancient and classical history and literature, travel. Most average books are ten or fifteen dollars, but there's always the alley outside with the cheap books on shelving and book carts. It was too cold to browse outside, but I'm going to go back in April and troll out there for books with booksellers' tickets in them. I love Brattle.

Commonwealth Books on Boylston (they have two other locations, Kenmore and Milk Street at the Old South) has wonderful scholarly hardcovers. They also had just bought a huge load of books and the entry aisle was stacked with boxes. Storage is always a problem for used booksellers. It fills and that's that. Then what? Anywhere! I really had spent my allotted sum, so I only bought one book, but the last time I visited I bought a large bag-full. Great shop, and a very friendly and funny guy at the checkout, too, who liked the book I was buying.

Boston was soooo cold on Monday. The wind was fierce. We ran from the parking lot to Brattle to Commonwealth and back to the parking lot, and got out of town after that. I found a few books to keep to read, though most are for stock. Also, this is the time of year that I start to put aside good books for my booth at the Maine Antiquarian Booksellers' Association book fair (in Portland in June). Some of the books I found will go out for sale at the fair. I can't keep everything, can I?

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