Friday, April 21, 2017

Always room for more books

Jesse Stuart
When we packed the car to head north from Florida this week, we didn't think we had room for anything else. My wife even lacked sufficient leg room. But did this stop us from stopping twice along the way to buy books? No, of course not.

Just on the Georgia side of the Georgia-Florida border is a store that sells books returned by public libraries after short-term use. I normally avoid library discards, but these books, although they bear library stamps and plastic covers, are in good condition. Many look like they have hardly been handled at all. Plus the prices are right and the selection is impressive. I can usually find books here I've been looking for but have found nowhere else. This is the third time I've stopped here, and I always find something good.

My catch this time included And After the Fall by Lauren Belfer, At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier, The Painter by Peter Helller, Prayers the Devil Answers by Sharyn McCrumb, First Fix Your Alibi and Blaze Away by Bill James, and The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith. These novels had once been part of the Palm Beach County Library, New York Library, Montgomery County, Md., Library, Mid-Manhattan Branch Library and Beaver Creek Library systems.

Taking a different route than usual this year, mainly to avoid Atlanta's traffic congestion, we were surprised to find ourselves in Big Stone Gap, Va., home of the Tales of the Lonesome Pine Bookstore, the subject of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, a book I read and enjoyed last year. I had to stop and look around.

Wendy Welch, the author of the book, was away with her husband this week, so I didn't get to talk with her, but I did enjoy browsing through their quaint little used book shop, which also includes an upstairs cafe and, surprisingly, a cat-rescue service. The store has just one cat there now, one that actually lives there, but we were told there are usually several kittens on hand waiting for nice people who come in looking for books and leave carrying kittens.

Mary Mapes Dodge
The books themselves did not impress me much. They are books you are likely to find anywhere else, and not always in the best condition. But I loved the way Welch displays them, as well as the many quotations from authors that decorate the walls and shelves. Nevertheless my wife and I each found a book. My choice was Mary Mapes Dodge: Jolly Girl, a fictionalized biography written for children by Miriam E. Mason and published in 1949.

I have long wondered what family relationship there might be, if any, between Mary Mapes Dodge, the author of Hans Brinker, and me. Perhaps this book will inspire me to do a little genealogical research.

On the third day of our trip we passed through Greenup County, Ky., home of Jesse Stuart, a favorite writer of mine. Then we stopped in Portsmouth, Ohio, to see the impressive floodwall murals along the Ohio River. Pictured here are many of the notable people from this part of the world, including Roy Rogers, Branch Rickey and, I was happy to see, Jesse Stuart.

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