Photographing Caroline Gibson, by Ricardo Barros

Caroline Gibson with Rawhide Mask

I believe that, if you make room for them, good things will happen in your life.

Caroline Gibson and I had never met before I photographed her. I had no expectations of the imagery we produced at our first meeting. In fact, I thought it was me who was doing her a favor. My wife, Heather, had seen Linny’s artwork and wanted to help her by arranging for its exhibition at a nearby art center. Heather ‘volunteered’ my services to produce newspaper publicity prints for that show.

Linny knocked on our door after dinner one evening and proceeded to unpack her artwork in our living room. She was employed by a local hardware store. The pieces she laid on our rug blended off-the-shelf, hardware inventory with organic materials such as leather, wax, and sticks. They suggested rituals, perhaps those of a priestess, even though some of it was discomforting for me.

I sensed Linny’s integrity and responded to the intensity of her passion. I found myself unpacking more and more equipment. Soon our living room was cluttered with my photo gear and her artwork. My pictures, which were supposed to depict her artwork, evolved into images of Linny interacting with her sculpture. Ultimately one of these photographs became her portrait, although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time. The next day I simply made Linny’s publicity prints, archived the negatives, and moved on to address other concerns.

Years later, when searching for photographs to include in an exhibit of my own, I rediscovered this image. This time I was able to see this portrait in a different context. It helped me realize that those who follow their passion are on the road to self-discovery. I learned that when people fuse Inspiration with Integrity, they produce an expression of Identity.

Linny had left me a gift. She helped me learn that this is exactly what portraiture is all about. And, quite unexpectedly, my inadvertent, first, sculptor portrait eventually became the cover of my book, FACING SCULPTURE: A Portfolio of Portraits, Sculpture and Related Ideas.

Ricardo Barros

Ricardo’s book, FACING SCULPTURE: A Portfolio of Portraits, Sculpture and Related Ideas is on sale at Classics Books.  Learn more about Ricardo’s photography at


Things You Should Do in a Bookstore

My friend sent me a list of things a bookseller posted of things NOT to do in a bookstore—don’t bring active kids, don’t bring in food, if you’re in a hurry don’t be mean to us, don’t talk on  cell phone.  What a whiner.

That’s not to say Classics Bookstore encourages food fights or rudeness, but please.  If you have to take a call, take a call.  If you are in a hurry, we will try and help.  If you are hungry, I have menus for the Hummingbird Jamaican restaurant, Big Easy restaurant and we convinced Settimo Cielo to deliver to the mystery aisle.  Just clean up after yourself and we’re good.

So rather than list all the things you SHOULDN’T do in a used bookstore, here’s a list of what you SHOULD do.

Ask us if you can’t find something.  Don’t be shy.  Looking for your favorite genre, your favorite author, a recommendation for something to read ?  We can help.

Read books to your kids while you are here.  We love to hear parents reading to kids in the back.  This is not a library where you are going to be hushed.

It’s okay to talk about your Kindle.  The books at Classics have a good self esteem!  They aren’t threatened by eBooks any more than stairs are threatened by escalators.

Tell us about the books that you love.  People who shop in bookstores (especially used bookstores) are the best people in the world.  They are smart, they are good people, and passionate about what they love.  Of course we want to hear about the book you are reading–why do you think we work in a bookstore?

Have Fun.  Because, really, if you aren’t having fun at least once in a while, you are not doing something right.

Want a place be surrounded by books?  To talk to the best people in New Jersey?  To catch a game of Scrabble or Uno?  To hang out with old friends?  To meet new ones?  To help build a downtown?  To help get free books into the hands of local kids?  To join a community of excellent people?  Come to Classics Books in downtown Trenton.

There are lots of things you SHOULD be encouraged to do.





Neighborhood News October 2013

Classics Books Hidden Trenton page is updated. Check out all the nice things people said about us! (some was deserved!)

Downtown Trenton has beautiful architecture.  The picture below is the Masonic Temple right around the corner on Barracks.  If you are visiting Classics o a Saturday afternoon, circle the block and take a look!

The Big Easy (around the corner on Warren Street) now delivers!


Bookstore People: Radio Hosts and Rockers

Yolanda “Landy” Robinson

The spirit behind Living a Powerful Life, Landy is a Life Coach who seeks to empowers her clients to release that which no longer serves them. She is a force in Trenton: Host of On the Reel Radio (which you can listen at Listen in @, the muscle behind In Her Shoes, emcee of the African American Day Festival, creator of the Adult Prom and supporter of all things Trenton.

When you catch her at Classics, you will find her talking to everybody who walks in—an instinctual host even when she isn’t on the radio!


Ian Gentles

Lead singer of the rock group the Working Class Hussies, Ian is the only man I know who can rock out to the lyrics of School House Rock.  A songwriter, musician, and singer, Ian he has over three hundred completed original songs, recorded at his recording studio, known as the ‘Tree House.’

When you catch Ian at Classics, you will either find him playing Axis and Allies in the back, with guitar and drum kit in the mystery aisle or reading books about World War 2.

Watch his Classics video at


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.



How to Describe Your Book in 25 Words or Less, by Jessica Eppley

As an author, one of the most common things people ask me is “What is your book about?” It is a pretty legitimate question, yet almost every time I stumble through a response that does not really answer the person’s question. I’ll state that it is a young adult fantasy, the protagonist is female, and it is part of a series, but I’ve never been able to belt out a homemade synopsis on the spot.

As strange as this may sound, I don’t think it is all too uncommon for a writer or an artist or anyone else who creates for a living to have a hard time talking about their work. The reason for this? To us, this creative work is an incredibly intimate and personal aspect of ourselves. It is like a diary we are literally allowing the world to open it up and read. We are permitting you to see us naked, to take in every detail, and to judge us for both our strengths and weaknesses.

I write in the privacy of my own mind and I keep my creations close to me. I invest emotionally in my characters and the world they live in. I cry with them, I laugh with them. When one of them dies, I feel loss. They are very real to me and I am protective of them. It is a feeling akin to that I can imagine a mother feels. The first time one of my books becomes available to the public, I feel like I am watching my child board the school bus for the first time. I am full of pride, apprehension, dread, and joy all at once. I am terrified that it will fail, that people will laugh at it, yet I am beyond proud of my work and astonished that I was able to come this far with it.

I hope to overcome this hiccup in my publicity skills someday, but I pray that I will never lose that humility when it comes to my work. I pray that I will never fall to commercialism no matter how well my book does, and that my heart and soul will remain within my work. I hope I will always write for myself first and my audience second. Even though ultimately I want my audience to accept my work, I do not want to lose touch with what makes me a unique writer. So yes, I am shy when it comes to talking about my work, but that is because my work is so dear to me. Believe me, I will do my best to answer your questions! In the meantime, if you want to know more what my books are about than what I can tell you, I suggest you read them and find out for yourself!

Jessica’s book, The Book of Saivon, is young adult fantasy with a female protagonist, and is on sale at Classics!  Follow Jessica on Twitter at


Staff Picks: Bruce Bentzman

Bruce Bentzman, blogger at the British poetry webzine Snakeskin and author of Selected Suburban Solliquies (available at Classics), mans Classics every Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 noon to 2 pm.

Recently, he went on a mission to find 20 books currently on the shelves at Classics he would recommend.  He would love it if you dropped by and talked to him about his list.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

2. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

3. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

4. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

5. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

6. Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse

7. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

9. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

10. The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

11. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

12. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

13. Black Spring by Henry Miller

14. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

15. Nightwings by Robert Silverberg

16. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

17. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

19. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

20. Pudd’nhead Wilson  by Mark Twain



Ten Dollar Bills and Other Unexpected Reasons to Buy Books

Bonnye Jean R (from Trenton) bought a book (White Teeth by Zadie Smith)  at Classics Books that had $10 inside.  The book cost about $6, so she made a profit!  She seems to come by Classics more often since then.

Jess Raven G (from Philadelphia) confesses to buying books because they smell right.

A customer (who has requested she remain unnamed) bought three books because her Kindle fell and broke before she finished them.

Mark W (from NYC) buys books as gifts–and also is a conduit for book donations to Classics from his friends.  He has bought books as gifts for friends because it seems exactly like I book they would own–because they once were books that they owned (and gave away to Classics).

When the store was in New Hope, I had a customer buy a stack of books so he could make them into desk lamps.

Josie H (from Trenton) buys expensive leather-bound books and sends them to an artist who hollows them out so her Kindle can fit inside.  Josie wants her Kindle to have that “real book feel.”

There’s an Exhibit for That photography competition winner–Kevin Hogan!

Classics Books and Artworks had a photography competition in which all the entries had to have been taken with a smart phone.  The competition was named “There’s an Exhibit for That.”  The entries at Classics also had to be of Trenton subjects and scenes. 

Our winner was Kevin Hogan for the picture below.  Congratulations!  Kevin also recently won the Ellarslie photography competition, with another picture taken by smart phone, up against other pictures taken by all manner of professional cameras.

Winners were determined by the the vote from customers at Classics.  Thank you all who took the time to vote!