Category Archives: book repair

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.




Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, reading, Uncategorized, VA, what's on your bedside table, writing

WTH Happened in Cookbooks?!

After a long period of neglectfulness because of Busy Life Syndrome, I moved with purpose and dusting rag yesterday afternoon toward the section of our bookstore housing Horror, Cookbooks, Hippie Interest and Crafting.

Yeah, we put ‘em in the same room. Doesn’t everybody?

Anyway, it had been a good long month since any staff had touched the area, other than the quick sweep-n-mop that keeps us from drowning in doggie dander. For some reason, our black Lab Zora loves to doze evenings in the hallway between Homeopathic Health and Cookbooks. Maybe to a dog’s sensitive nose those books smell pleasantly of herbs and bacon. I don’t know.

The scene that met me was worse than anticipated: VC Andrews sat chumming it up in the knitting section. (I wonder what Debbie Macomber would say to that?) Brian Lumley was Cooking with Oprah, the hippies hanging with Stephen King. And the diabetes diet books leaned with a drunken slant against Cakes for Christmas.

A little neglect goes a long way. Over the next two hours, I bookwrangled the wild volumes into a semblance of order. I’m pretty sure Day of the Triffids snarled at me as I separated it from Wilderness Survival, but the world doesn’t need any more horror novels about plants gone bad.

The whole time I was pulling John Saul off Julia Child, that Boston Globe article about wealthy retirees buying “failed” bookstores and reopening them lay on my mind. It was a great article from a bookslinger’s perspective: how the bookstore is not only not dead, but in full-blown revival, climbing the charts of “most wanted retirement careers” to number eight from fifteen in just two short years.

But I hope those dear, sweet people understand that it’s a lot of work, and in many ways a lot of the same work over and over again. You will spend less time discussing Russian Literature than you will separating it from Amish Christian Romances.

Jack and I wish you well, you new crop of bookstore owners, and we wish you the joy that comes from co-mingled dust and ideas. You’re going to see a lot of both.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, humor, shopsitting, Uncategorized, writing