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.