This Side of a Bookaholic’s Paradise

BETHESDA, MD. – Book addicts know how to sniff out a good book sale – and many D.C.-based book hounds hit the mother lode this weekend as they rummaged through 14 miles of delectable books at the 42nd annual used book sale at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda. The four-day event, complete with a concert scene-like parking experience, brought back fine memories of my days as a bookseller, waiting in line at preview sales and politely jostling for space to beat my colleagues to the punch for undervalued first editions and out-of-print gems that carried enough margin to make that month’s rent.

The outstanding turnout of attendees on Saturday warmed this publisher’s heart and proved once again that rumors of the printed and bound word’s impending death indeed are greatly exaggerated. For the owner of a small, startup press, I am both encouraged and intimidated by such a testament to people’s passion for literature. I’m encouraged, obviously, due to the droves of book collectors and readers still ambling among us who seek a fix to their insatiable appetite for print media; but it’s intimidating due to the exorbitant number of titles competing for attention in a fragmented marketplace. At the very least, such a communal, book buying marathon provides an ethereal connection to like-minded individuals – and it too satisfies my own voracious hunger for new stories, serendipitous discoveries and curious grabs. And, well, I simply like the act of adding books to my private library – it’s akin to adding intimate friends to your life and knowing you will get out of the relationship as much as you put in.

Allow me, now, the pleasure of sharing some of my “disciplined” acquisitions from yesterday. Mind you, it takes quite a bit of self-control for a book addict to limit his intake to under $100, even with an average purchase price of $3 per book. I spent most of my two hours flipping through art, music and poetry books and only briefly pored through some titles of literary fiction. This wasn’t a conscious decision, but more likely subconscious, as I approached the outing with pleasure in mind, not business. After reviewing manuscripts all week for Atticus Books to consider publishing, perusing tables and tables of novels is a reminder of work, not leisure. Not that I mind work!

Here goes, then, my list of newfound friends:

Literary fiction
Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson
How We Are Hungry: Stories, Dave Eggers
Everyman, Philip Roth
Great Dream of Heaven: Stories, Sam Shepard
The Piano Tuner: Stories, Peter Meinke
Life Stories: Original Works by Russian Authors, published in 2009 by stories for good, an imprint of Russian Information Services, Inc.

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music, Steve Lopez
Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940, Shari Benstock

Jazzwomen: 1900 to the Present, Their Words, Lives and Music, Sally Placksin
Jazz: A History of the New York Scene, Samuel B. Charters and Leonard Kunstadt

Art and Poetry
Auden/Moore: An exhibition of a book dedicated by Henry Moore to W.H. Auden with related drawings, published for the trustees of the British Museum
Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments, Elizabeth Bishop (edited and annotated by Alice Quinn)
The Art of Andrew Wyeth, Wanda M. Corn
Andrew Wyeth’s Helga Pictures, Limited Edition, Donald Kuspit
A Bestiary by Toulouse-Lautrec, The Fogg Art Museum and the Harvard College Library (1954)
Seurat to Matisse: Drawing in France, Selections from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York, 1974), edited by William S. Lieberman
The Spirit of the Letter in Painting, Jean Leymarie (translated from the French by James Emmons, 1961)
The Book of Guinness Advertising, Jim Davies

Humor & Essays
Naked Pictures of Famous People, Jon Stewart
Take the Cannolli: Stories from the New World, Sarah Vowell
Fugitive from the Cubicle Police: A Dilbert Book, Scott Adams

My wife, who has more refined tastes in contemporary literature than yours truly, picked up the following award winners in fiction, among other nuggets:

Charming Billy, Alice McDermott
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
Gilead, Marilyn Robinson

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