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Column for 3.23.11
Every person who loves books will tell you that it is almost impossible to pass a used book store without going in to see what treasures are to be found on the shelves. That, of course, is what makes used book stores so interesting. Unlike chain bookstores, you never know what you’ll find inside a used bookstore.
In used bookstores are books on topics that you didn’t know existed. There are authors you’ve never heard about.
I have been going into used book stores around here and around the country for longer than I can remember. I have never left without a book in my hand, usually more than one.
My head is filled with stuff that I’ve learned from used books. Some of that stuff has even proved useful. Most of it has been interesting and entertaining.
Used bookstores are usually like this:
A gray haired older gentleman runs the place. He is to be found sitting behind a cluttered desk, which is old like everything else in the place. Name a title or author and he’ll take you right to it.
Classical music plays softly in the background. I don’t enjoy classical music but it is appropriate for used bookstores.
The store is clean, but dusty. Books, mostly hardcovers, are in good condition and fill every available shelf. Since there is no more room on the shelves, books are stacked on tables, chairs and on the floor.
A cat has the run of the place.
Life took me to Schenectady last Saturday. Driving up Union Street, near Union College, I saw W. Somers, Bookseller at 841 Union. A flag showing that it was open was outside. A sign said, “Browsers Welcome Inside.” Another sign said, “Good Books Sold Here.”
At first I didn’t see the gray haired gentleman. He was working at a desk in the back of the shop, a desk piled high with books and papers. Maybe he was Mr. W. Somers. I didn’t ask.
Books were piled everywhere, Classical music was playing. I saw no cat, but there was a picture of a cat on the wall. My guess is that the cat in the picture once had the run of W. Somers, Bookseller at 841 Union.
Used books, of course, cost much less than new. I bought six books at W. Somers, Bookseller, all hardcover, all in great condition. The bill was $16. Every book I looked at on the shelves at W. Somers, Bookseller were priced between $2 and $4. There was a section for first editions that I didn’t look at because I didn’t have time.
I was in the store for about 90 minutes, but would have liked to have stayed longer. Being asked to leave a used bookstore because it is past closing time is something that has happened to me more than once.
At W. Somers, Bookseller, I purchased six books, including “The Great Bridge,” which is about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, and which was written by David McCullough; “Flying Know-How,” which was written by a retired TWA captain and contains tips and advice for pilots; “Up Front,” by Bill Mauldin, which is about World War II and includes many of his drawings.
For the past couple of years I have been reading books on a “nook,” which is an electronic book reader. It feels good to have real books in my hands again.