Tag Archives: bookslinging

Heating With Books

books 010Now don’t judge me for what I’m about to tell you. Because every one of us who runs a bookstore has had to face this dilemma at one point or another, and if I do say so myself, Jack and I have found a creative and elegant solution.

Bookstores have unsellable books. It happens. 1970s manuals on why the Rapture will be within the next 10 years – reprinted in the 1980s and 1990s. At which point I assume the preacher died and went to his Heavenly Reward. (I’m not cynical, just have a wicked sense of humor and a healthy disrespect for fearmongering versus “This is God. Get to know God. It’s important.”)

Then there are the Arthur Hailey novels, the 1960s Fiction Book of the Month Club, and Thomas Costain.

Costain works the best for our purposes, because his paperbacks are nice and thick. Still, the book club editions stack well.

books 009Around the walls. We finally sat down and worked out a solution to “What are we gonna do about our heating bills” for this 1903 drafty monstrosity of a bookstore we live in. We needed to insulate better. What did we have to do it with?

Why hel-LO there, Danielle Steel! Steamy heated love scenes? Perfect for under the windows. We lined all the outer walls of our shop with romances, has-been how-tos, hardback fiction that’s been there, done that, and a few copies of  Time Life Big Books.

Thin, those, but nice and tall for the corners.

We got heat, ladies and gentlemen, and those books are getting the dignified retirement they deserve. If someone actually wanted to buy one, I’d have to explain that market value would be determined by the temperature outside, of course. Not that anyone will. These books are elegantly unsellable.books 008

And thick. And weighty. And perfect. We are WARM! Our heating bill is going down. And we culled our shelves. Life is going great in these sub-zero temperatures.

Jack and I live in a house lined with books. Go by, cold world!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

How Much Booking Does a Bookseller Book if a Bookseller Books with Books?

Our friends Wes and Rachael were here for the annual New Year’s party, and when I mentioned that I wanted to track calories for health reasons, they downloaded Myfitnesspal for me on my iPhone.

Yeah, thanks.

It tells me I need to eat a 1200-calorie diet if I want to lose a pound a week for a goal of 20 pounds.

I told my iPhone that seemed unreasonable. In fact, I told it I didn’t appreciate it judging me. But there was no entry button for actually imputing that data.

C’mon, I live in a bookstore with one of the best cafes in the world in it, where stuff is made from scratch, not cream of soup bases. It’s WHOLESOME food.

“Wholesome’s just another word for triple left to lose,” sang Jack. (We listened to that Kris Kristofferson special on NPR last week.)

But wait, says Wes, there’s a bracelet you can wear, and it tells you how much you’re walking or running or rowing or skipping or whatever. And whatever you do for exercise earns you extra calories you can eat. Nice system, eh?

Yeah. Finding time to exercise…. I said, “Does the bracelet know when you’re carrying 12 hardbacks through the shop to the farthest points so you can shelve one in each section?”

“Hmm, let’s put that under weight lifting,” Wes said.

So we tried it. Not only does it know, but apparently that’s worth a fourth-cup of Kelley’s chicken and dumplings.

Things are looking up. Booksellers do a lot of booking when we’re booking books.

I’ll be able to eat after all.



Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch

Jack’s Take on (parts of) Philadelphia

Jack gives Wendy an afternoon off to take a long, hot bath, and offers his impressions of the glorious charm that is Philly.

In the 1980s and early 1990s I toured around Europe with my folk-band Heritage and then, with my band mate George, branching into the States. The book tour on which Wendy and I are currently engaged has reminded me very much of those days: driving long miles between gigs, meeting lots of interesting and engaging folk, and swinging between fast food and gourmet meals. Last night we stepped slightly away from the book activities to give a house concert organized by Eileen and Ray, the friends we stayed with here in Philadelphia (in the wonderful and palatial house of their friends Jean and Pat). House concerts are a peculiarly American concept, and this one was well attended by folk who joined in every chorus with more enthusiasm than I’ve experienced in a long time (including the rather silly ‘Railway Porter’ and the infamous ‘Counting Backwards Song’ which some adults won’t sing because they always get the numbers wrong). ‘Twas a lovely night.

This morning we discovered a real bookstore-owning character in the shape of Greg Williams of ‘Walk a Crooked Mile Books.’ The shop is half of an old train station and a gloriously riotous and ramshackle building on the historic register, with bookshelves stuffed everywhere you can imagine (including, to Wendy’s delight, the bathroom). Outside he has a ready-made amphitheater where he puts on frequent music events. Greg proved very willing to spend time chatting and comparing notes about the things bookstore owners tend to have in common: borderline poverty, endless boxes of donations, and the joyful exuberance of getting to run one.

Crooked Mile’s staff cat Cici sat silent and plump at our feet during our discussion. Greg said she hadn’t so much applied for the job as created the position; she appeared one day “and that was that.”

It is hard to convey the delight one feels at finding a kindred bookslinger. Greg is a shelf-building, free-thinking, problem-solving kind of guy with a long white beard and eyes crinkly with laugh lines. We started trading book questions: “Do you make people pay half in cash, or will you take all trade credit?” “What do you do with older paperback fiction?” “Do you ever get….” Etc. We did etc. for about an hour, until other customers entered and we said farewell.

Tomorrow we’ll tell you about our book signing at The Spiral Bookcase. Today, we bask in the glow of knowing there are other shops stuffed to the gills with the eternal library of human knowledge, run by bookslingers who know the value of what we contribute to the world.

BTW, Greg also writes a blog, which can be found at http://www.walkacrookedmilebooks.com

(Cici, the shop cat, proved camera shy. This is the best we could do.)


Filed under book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, Uncategorized