Used Books

I love everything that’s old — old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.  Oliver Goldsmith

Years ago, when my husband and I bought a used car, the salesman kept referring to the car as “pre-owned”.  Apparently “used” is a dirty word when it comes to selling cars. Our local Friends of the Library holds a book sale every September, and I noticed that they refer to the books as “gently used”. Whatever they’re called — “pre-owned” , “gently used”, “well-loved”, “like new” —  used books bring back memories. At the book sale yesterday, I spotted Gorky Park and remembered reading that Cold War thriller on my honeymoon. I saw piles of Berenstain Bears paperbacks and remembered reading those awful books over and over to my children. And The Scarsdale Diet brought back memories of a short-lived attempt to live on 700 calories per day. (Whatever happened to Jean Harris, the private school headmistress convicted of murdering Herman Tarnower, the Scarsdale Diet Doctor?)

Yesterday was Bargain Day — all books 50% off the already low prices. People were lugging multiple loads of bags and boxes of books to their cars. There were supposed to be 100,000 books at the sale, and some frenzied customers looked like they were trying to bring home as many of those 100,000 as they could. I was on the lookout for certain old books I’ve been trying to track down for years  . . . no luck there, but I did score a copy of Noteworthy (the Ravinia cookbook,  long out of print) to give to my aunt, a hardcover copy of The Match (my husband’s favorite golf book) to give to my son, and a coffee table book about Chicago street names for my collection.

In the book business, we are always looking ahead to the newest books. We get advance copies of books months before they’re published.  I’ve already read books that will come out this fall and winter. If I haven’t read a book within a few months of its publication date, I feel like I’ve missed it and I need to move on to newer books. The used book sale reminded me that there are countless treasures from the past waiting for me to discover them. (Sadly, I have to admit some of those treasures are sitting on my own bookshelves.)

What overlooked book is sitting on your shelf? Maybe you should give it a try . . . or maybe it needs a new home.

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15 thoughts on “Used Books

  1. Ann, i am so excited for you but more importantly I am so excited for me to read your blog. Thanks, I can’t wait to enjoy more! Catherine

  2. Ann, wonderful post and wonderful idea! I am right there with your Mom about the book! I look forward to reading your blog and getting your weekly recommendations!!
    :-)Candice

  3. Jean Harris’s life, like a well-written play, had an interesting third act resolution. She devoted herself to prison reform, including setting up GED programs for fellow inmates while in the hoosegow.
    p.s. How wonderful is it that your mom was the first person to comment on your great blog? Too wonderful!

  4. I am so excited that you are doing this! Very proud and impressed. Loved reading about old books and the treasure they are…I am reading Centennial by James Michener, loving every page but the first 100!

    • Suzie, I remember reading a James Michener book about South Africa (The Covenant, I think) that started way before the dawn of man . . . I don’t think any people even appeared for 100 pages or so. Not sure if I would have the patience for that anymore!

  5. Ann, I really enjoyed your new blog! You are brilliant in so many ways. I am now motivated to work through all my old books on my bookshelf – may skip the complete works of Milton!

  6. Great post! When I made the decision in earnest to pursue a career as a novelist about 8 years ago, I became so obsessed with trying to keep up with book trends that I started to feel overwhelmed and lost as I read the new releases. Then I picked up an old classic and favorite (Of Mice and Men) and I was reminded how much I love reading. So now I make sure to include at least one or two classics in my yearly reading, to sort of return to the literary roots that inspired me to write in the first place. There’s nothing quite like an old book. 🙂

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