Never Judge a Book by its Black Sack Covering

books It continues to be a delight to have our lives revolve around the bookstore, to meet folks almost every day who have read Wendy’s book and made a trip to see us, and to be surrounded by ‘bookstore friends’ at the regular events we put on.

But in the middle of all that fun, we deal with the more mundane–and often tedious–jobs such as pricing and shelving the donations and books that show up—usually at the busiest times of the day or week. These unforeseen arrivals often come by the truckload, and that can be a real challenge., since we no longer have hidden spaces to store books until we can find time to sort them. In some cases, we wind up checking their current value on the Internet as well as “stick-n-stash” (as we have ignobly nicknamed pricing and shelving).

A few days ago Wendy was sitting back heaving a sigh of relief, having just dealt with a slew of these incomers; they’d arrived in dribs and drabs throughout the day, and she was proud of having cleared them in a timely manner despite having a record number of customers in the shop.

And then the door opened.

In came our good friend Cyndi Newlon (you can see her in the video tour of the bookstore, playing the corpse in our mystery room).

Cyndi runs a writing center at the nearby college, and she’d asked if we wanted “some old library books.” Apparently, today was the day, and “some books” turned out to be ten large tightly knotted black sacks. Each one was seriously heavy, I discovered, as I helped get them out the back of her SUV and up onto the dry half of the porch.

I had been in the process of getting to grips with our brand new power washer, cleaning the soot of our front porch and outside chairs and tables after the recent big fire across the street. The arrival of Cyndi was a mixed blessing – respite from wrestling with the washer, but ….

We knew that the sacks couldn’t be left lying outside, so there was nothing for it but to dive in and start checking. Old library books are a mixed bag, often useless, but sometimes wonderful. We quickly turned up two or three hard-to-find William Faulkners, as well as quite a few rather attractive very old poetry and short story collections.

Our hearts beat faster. We warmed to the task. It’s not easy to explain to “normal” people, but bibliophiles will understand the excitement of digging through opaque sacks of old books, exclaiming over long-forgotten friends, discovering new titles.

And that’s just thinking of them as books. When you think of them as objects to be sold, well, usually with old worn ex-library books you’re lucky to find maybe one or two in every fifty that would worth hanging on to, but we were amazed with this collection. As we trawled through, we found many first editions, along with rare titles containing beautiful illustrations.

So we are grateful to Cyndi and Don for thinking of us and, once again, we learned to be grateful for what on first blush looks like a lot more work at a busy time. And we learned that you never know what good things might be hiding in a bulging black sack.



7 thoughts on “Never Judge a Book by its Black Sack Covering

  1. I am a volunteer with the Chula Vista Library in Chula Vista, CA. Loved your book and subscribed to your blog immediately after reading it. This particular article struck home with me. We (I) also deal with donated books. That is what we sell in our Friends book store and at bi-monthly sales. The community is very generous and we are always on the receiving end of many donations…large and small, good and bad, clean, bug-ridden and/or moldy. I call each box and bag a “Surprise Christmas Present”. It is either the moth-eaten handmade “sweater” two-sizes too small from your favorite aunt, an old book “friend” from childhood, a 2014 best seller that looks to have never been read or an elegant coffee table extravaganza…ya never know. It’s a surprise every day and we exclaim, pontificate or roll our eyes at each bag of goodies. Great fun (and lots of hard work too)

  2. Just watched the delightful video of your bookshop, and I am so jealous that I live too many states away to be a part of your group activities. No where around here to feed my book addiction… all sound so lovely (loved your book!).

  3. It’s funny how the best books we get are often free donations and sometimes the ones worth the least have the highest asking price. I had a person in an hour ago who wanted to buy westerns but had “already read all we have.” He asked if I would like to have a bunch more; I said sure. Then he added “at $2 each.”
    I replied, “no, that wouldn’t work, since we often sell them for $1.49 each.”

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