Tag Archives: used books

The Cat in the Hat in the Box in the Bookstore

When I first opened the bookstore, I was adamant that it was going to be a store for readers, not collectors. I was not going to sell first editions; I was going to sell books for people who liked to read, I was a man of the people not a curator, blah blah blah. Then somebody brought in a first edition of War of the Worlds and, feeling that piece of history in my hands, it took me about 30 seconds to throw out my rule and carry some collectable books.

One busy Saturday, I had a line at the register and a woman came in with a box of books to donate to the store. I invited her to wait a moment and I would let her know how much credit I could give her, but she said not to worry about it—she had just tried to sell these books at a garage sale and she just wanted to get rid of them. On the side of the box read “Old Kids Books $1 Each.”

About a week later, one of the New Hope floods came and I had to pack up every book in the story. Martines (a restaurant across the street) let me pile up books on her tables (I would eat at a restaurant like that!), friends and customers loaded up their vans and cars and we emptied the store.

We already had a second store in Trenton, and we decided to close up the New Hope store and deliver all the books to Trenton. We still hadn’t opened that box of kids’ books.

It took us months to settle in to the Trenton store, unpacking, sorting and shelving all the books from New Hope. It was maybe six months later I opened the box of books.

It included a first edition early Maurice Sendak A Hole is the Dig ($150) and a first edition Tasha Tudor ($800). But the mind blowing book was a first edition (200/200 on the price tab of the flap) of The Cat in the Hat. It was in perfect condition, no single mark or scuff, no price clip. It looked unread. List price? $7,000. (We eventually sold it wholesale to another bookstore for about $2,000).

What an amazing collection of books, which had sat unwanted in a box at a garage sale for $1.

There is something essentially human about used books.  Life may leave us a little battered and worn, but we still have the capacity to inspire, to teach, to entertain, to love and be loved.

And no matter how unwanted we may feel at times, how neglected and overlooked, all it takes is the right person to open our covers and recognize us for the treasure we are.

Seuss-cat-hat[1]


Why Used Books Are The Best

Classics customers know why used books are the best.  They are half price and cheaper (no $34 hard-backed mystery novels), they are good for the environment (how many stores sell almost all recycled goods?) and they are good for the community (coming, as used books are, wrapped in used bookstores–which are more likely to encourage local authors, literacy programs, poetry jams, games nights, book clubs, knitting groups and hanging out with your neighbors).

In addtion, used bookstores are that sexy, dishevelled neighbor who actually wants to talk to you over a cup of coffee, rather than that uptight car salesman who wants your $30 and get out of his face.

Huffington Post has a list of 13 reasons you should always buy used books.  You can read it here.

 

 


The Value of Bookstores: Community

More and more, people are enabled in their insularity—enabled by home entertainment systems and by the computer.  They can shop from home, watch movies at home, play games by themselves. 

People can connect with other people online at home, but in shorter and short exchanges, as if conversation was a painting smashed into a million pieces—two sentences here, 140 words there, a “like” button. 

In addition, while the entire universe of social media is diverse, people there seem to gather into little homogenous groups, as if their FaceBook pages followed the logic of high school cafeteria tables.  

Classics Used and Rare Books is a place where diverse groups of people gather to have conversations longer than a tweet, deeper than what you can find on their info page and with people you might not otherwise get the chance to meet.  Classics is a store where you learn about real people in real time–a real social medium. 

I want you to meet a couple of the Classics family.

Keturah Monroe

Keturah is a Classics customer and friend and can often be found in the front of the store carrying on a conversation on any number of topics—raw foods, philosophy, the importance of international studies for urban youth.  She is fast talking, fast thinking and has a singing voice equal to “a thousand angels.”  But, she hates compliments on her singing, because it takes energy away from her true passion—teaching kids science.

Keturah runs a science enrichment program in Trenton, called OURSEP.  She has the radical idea that kids should practice science in the field FAR afield, as in another country.  Every year she leads a group of Trenton kids abroad—their first year they studied science in the rich habitats of Costa Rica!

My favorite Keturah quote: “I am hard-headed because I fear mediocrity and its secret entrances.”

This is Keturah.  

You can learn more about OURSEP at http://www.oursep.org/.

Jon Naar

Jon was born in 1920 in Britain and is connected to Classics through the Scrabble Club, where we see him regularly on Friday nights handing out 2-letter word lists to new players and steadfastly preventing players from sneaking a look in the Scrabble dictionary in the middle of a game.  He is also connected to Classics through his many books on photography, graffiti and the environment.

With a little coaxing, Jon will tell you some of his amazing life.  In World War 2, he was a spy operating behind enemy lines, involved in the kidnapping of a German general.  He lived in New York where he was neighbors with Kurt Vonnegut, ate dinner with Julia Childs, hosted County Basie at his house, and had tea with Ghandi.  He has collaborated on books with Norman Mailer and Jacques Cousteau.  He photographed Andy Warhol and Melba Moore, Dachau and the beginnings of graffiti in New York.  His photographs are in MOMA, in the Met and on graced the final cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

All this, and here Jon is at Classics, hunched over his Scrabble rack, with many players none the wiser about his photographic talent or his endlessly fascinating life.

My favorite Jon quote, as befits a photographer, is told without words.  “

This is Jon. 

You can purchase Birth of Graffiti, Faith of Graffiti, and Getting the Picture at Classics Used and Rare Books.

You can learn more about Jon Naar at http://jonnaar.com/index.htm.


You’ve Got 49 Days: Things Found in Books

I find great, suggestive things in books.  The inscriptions are the private face one person shows another, almost always written in some private language, referring to events and people about which we can only guess.  Sometimes there are items left behind in books that are as fascinating as the book–love letters, a $7,000 check, a 4-leaf clover. 

Here are three things.

#1.  Inscription from Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within

Hi—

It takes forever

When you read one page

A night.  I’m going

Back to the other book

Now.  Hope I live

Long enough to finish.

Talk to you soon—

B.

 As I typed this inscription, the computer automatically capitalized the first word in each line, formatting it into a found, prosaic poem.

 #2.  In a book of religious quotes entitled Thorns and Thrones I found a torn corner of a photograph of a man’s face leaning into the corner.  In the background is the top of a horse’s head and trees.  The man is half-smiling and wearing a gray t-shirt and a Philadelphia Eagles base ball cap. 

He was obviously removed from some other picture, but why?  Was he cast out from the picture, or was the rest of the picture thrown away and he the only face worth saving?

 #3.  In the western, Legend of a Badman by Ray Hogan

I love you, you old shit.

Read slow.  You’ve got 49 days.


God Blesses Sexy Geeks! or, Top Ten Reasons to Visit Classics Used and Rare Books

#10.  Earthquake proof!

#9.  Click here for reason #9.

#8.  You can buy those leather books to carve out a case for your Kindle, giving it a real book feel!

#7.  We are keeping the last remaining Borders Bookstore in the back of Classics in a jar for you to visit for old times sake.

#6.  Zyzzyvas!

#5.  Click here for reason #5.

#4.  God blesses sexy geeks!  (Tanya Ray)

#3.  “I loved Classics because it was a place where I could knit and play Scrabble, and then one day I noticed it was also full of used books.  What more could one want?”  (Mary Allen)

#2.  The only place to learn about Jack the Ripper’s and his incredible piano tuning skills.  (Megan Iurilli)

#1.  Unlike its New Hope location, it is not 6 feet under water!


How Used Bookstores are Saving the Universe

The Environment

I couldn’t find any numbers for books alone, but about 54.3 million tons of paper and paper fill American landfills every year.  Among that 54 million tons are countless libraries worth of books that could be kept in circulation instead of weighing down our waste infrastructure.

When you buy used books, you don’t just help keep them out of landfills; you also help preserve our natural resources. It is estimated that 24 trees are needed to produce one ton of virgin printing paper.

Used book stores are such a part of the fabric of American life that it is easy to forget that they are as important environmental centers, as important as newer (and therefore more visible) reuse centers like TerraCycle in Trenton.

Save the environment.  Support your used bookstores. 

Education

Used books improve education by providing low-cost options to fill a home with books. 

Not only are used bookstores already a fraction of the cost of new bookstores, some (Classics in Trenton NJ for example) provide books for FREE for local kids.  You don’t get lower-cost than that!

What impact does having books in the homes of kids have?  Especially books in the homes of low-resourced families in struggling school districts like Trenton?

The following is from “ScienceDirect – Research in Social Stratification and Mobility : Family scholarly culture and education”

Only 40% of children from bookless homes with unschooled parents can be expected to finish Year 9, compared to 88% of children with unschooled but book-rich parents, a huge 48 percentage point advantage.

A home library is also a big advantage in getting children through high school, for illiterate and university educated parents alike. For unschooled parents, the advantage of a large home library is 33 percentage points, about the same as the 37 point advantage for primary educated parents, 40 for incomplete secondary parents, 41 for parents with high school education, and 38 for university educated parents. 

Classics Used and Rare Book in Trenton (117 South Warren) has consistently handed out over $4,000 in FREE books every year to Trenton kids through their Books at Home Program.

Support education.  Support your used bookstores. 

Community

Far more than other businesses, used bookstores are meeting grounds for the community to meet and discuss matters of community importance and then taking action.  Random collections of customers at Classics Used and Rare Books, for example, have volunteered to help restore a vandalized mural, provided back-to-school backpacks for foster kids, and knitted helmet liners for soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

In addition, used bookstores, far more than other businesses, provide space for community groups to meet.  Classics in Trenton, for example, has opened their space for Peoples and Stories, BOOST, the Urban Studies Group, the Trenton Scrabble Club, the Trenton Kids Books Club, Trenton Knit and Stitch and other community groups.

Support your community.  Support your used bookstores. 

Arts and Letters

Used bookstores are on the vanguard of supporting regional authors with booksigning opportunities and consignment sales to which chain bookstores can be insensitive.  In addition, cutting-edge used bookstores, like Classics in Trenton, find ways to offer additional support.  Classics published the Trenton Review, which features Trenton artists, authors and subjects including Pulitzer Prize-winning Trenton poet Yusef Komunyakaa and the infamous Trenton rock hall, City Gardens.

Support local arts and letters.  Support your used bookstores. 

Economic Development

Like they do in supporting local authors, used bookstores are far more receptive to selling products of local business people.  Nowhere besides Classics, for example, can you purchase Trenton bridge tee-shirts done by a Trenton artist, candles from two local candlemakers (Ana Candles and Messiah’s Candles), note cards depicting the Battles of Trenton, outlandish ties made by a Trenton seamster, a DVD on tomato pies produced by Trentonians, and music CD’s by Trenton artists like The Blue Method, Clarice Sabree and the musicians of Trenton2Nite.

Support local micro-businesses.  Support your used bookstores.