In Search of a Good Book

I enjoy lingering in the stacks of second-hand boos stores. But my quest to collect first editions of the authors I love has taken me, by necessity, to the Internet.

When I lived in Western Massachusetts, I frequented a book store in Whately, which is where I started my collection. I stole away from the newsroom where I worked to spend an hour or more surrounded by its great selection of used fiction, going from A to Z, touching and smelling paper, and marveling at new arrivals.

Taos, where I live, has a few second-hand book stores plus sections in consignment stores heavy on clothing and furnishings. There are the occasional rummage or library friends sales.

My best finds so far in Taos have been a 1952 printing of Ellison’s Invisible Man found in a Habitat for Humanity Restore, which I’ve written about, and a first edition of Barbara Kingsolver’s Bean Trees in mint condition, worth far more than the seven bucks I spent. I have found other bargains but these are chance purchases.

If I want to fill in holes or am looking for a specific author, I shop on the Internet, which gives me the advantage of accessing book stores nationwide. I am also able to get signed first editions.

The drawback is that these store owners know what these books are worth and so there are fewer deals. However, I know I wouldn’t be able to fill my collection otherwise. Only once was I disappointed — I wasn’t expecting a discarded library book for the price I paid — but my money was refunded.

I am excited when the books I order arrive at my work place. Each are carefully wrapped by the people who sent them. Lovingly, it would seem. Many have mylar covers and arrive as advertised. I try to shoot for fine condition whenever possible.

Here’s a memorable purchase: When I opened one mailer, I discovered the book was wrapped in a map of Eastern Europe and contained a personal note from the store owner about Taos being a beautiful a place to live.


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