I love books. There weren’t a lot of them around the house when I was little, but I loved the ones I had. Dr. Dan the Bandage Man, The Little Red Hen, and The Little Engine That Could were my favorites. We had a set of Book of Knowledge Encyclopedias, and while I wasn’t interested in the boring factual stuff, I discovered there were fables and fairy tales scattered among the pages. I spent many afternoons searching for them and reading them over and over. During the summer, I went to the library as often as Mom would take me. I checked out stacks of books, continuing to read long after my Summer Book Club requirements were completed.
I was in the fifth grade the first time I bought a book of my own. Once a week we each received a publication called “The Weekly Reader,” and once a month it included a list of books we could order. My first purchase was The Red Pony by John Steinbeck for $.50. I enjoyed the story, but I knew there was more to it than I understood. For the next several years I read more Steinbeck, Faulkner, Michener, some of them voluntarily and some of them assigned, but my taste still ran toward the recreational rather than the intellectual. When I discovered Agatha Christie, I was hooked. I love books, but I really love a good mystery.
As an adult I went through a book club phase: buy 7 books for $1, buy 3 more at regular price, cancel membership, repeat. That worked for a while, but as times got leaner, I discovered used bookstores and garage sales. Whatever the method, I kept my bookshelves stuffed with books rather than objets d’art, and any move involved the donation of several boxes full of the latest collection of books.
David loves to read, too. It’s one of the major things we have in common. When we moved back to Texas, I worried about a source of reading material. In Florida, we had access to a fantastic library system. The Land O Lakes Library was well-stocked, but if I couldn’t find what I wanted on their shelves, I could go on-line and peruse the shelves of any library in the Pasco County system. When I found a book I wanted, I placed an order, requested that it be sent to the Land O Lakes Branch, and wait for an e-mail notice.
When we went on the road, I made use of special “vacation check-outs” and made sure our due dates were far enough out to avoid late fees. I also discovered most of the campgrounds had a book exchange where I could take one and leave one. The shelves usually had a large supply of romance and western novels, but there were also a fair number of mysteries. I sometimes found books by our favorite authors and sometimes found new favorites. Between the two sources, I was able to keep us reading, but if you’re trying to read a particular series in order, the book exchange isn’t the best option. I’ve found several good on-line sources for used books, and that works out pretty well, but sometimes the shipping cost makes a big dent in the savings.
One of the first things I checked out when we got to Emory was the library. It’s a nice library, but Emory is a small town, and it has a small library. They have an exchange program with some of the neighboring libraries, but there’s a $5 fee per book, so it’s not a very appealing option. The Senior Center has a book exchange once or twice a month, but like the campground bookshelves, it’s heavy on romance and westerns.
I think I’ve found a new source, though: the Good Samaritan Thrift Store. It’s open during the week to distribute food, clothing, and various household items to those in need, but on Saturday mornings, it’s open to the public. The money raised on Saturdays is used to restock the food pantry and to pay the organization’s expenses. Best of all, it has an extensive book section.
The first time I went, I came away with only 5 books. I saw a lot more that interested me, but I didn’t have my list. Several years ago I started a list of books we had read along with a comprehensive list of the works of “our” authors so I wouldn’t order duplicates or miss any treasures by our favorites. So far, the list is 37 pages long, but it’s double spaced, so that’s not too bad. After our visit to the thrift store, I used my master list to develop a shopping list of missing books. Last Saturday I went back to the thrift store, list in hand and on a mission.
I looked at the new releases which are priced at $1, but before I made any decisions I checked out the $.25 paperbacks. Pay dirt! I found an entire section of James Patterson and David Baldacci. I walked out with 20 books for a grand total of $4.33.
I know as a writer I need to support my fellow authors, and I buy new books from time to time. But until I get that call from my agent, I have to watch the budget. I’m a book junkie, and until that big contract arrives in my mailbox, I’ll have to continue to feed my addiction at used bookstores, used book websites, and the thrift store.