My $3.00 Bag Of Books

2019-07-12 Thrift store 3.00 bag of books

About once a month, I have a few thrift stores that I visit to check for book deals. There are specific types of books that I hunt for:
– Easy readers, chapter books, and young adult fiction for our local school library
– Christian paperback books (fiction and non-fiction that men would enjoy)  for a local prison ministry
– Reader’s Digest Condensed books for a family member who loves those short reads
– A few good fiction and biography books for myself

Today was one of my best book runs. One of our neighborhood thrift stores had a $3.00 book bag sale. Old books, new books, fiction, biographies, non-fiction, even sheet music books – whatever books you could fit into a paper grocery bag – was only #3.00.

I ended up with 27 easy readers, 5 chapter books, 3 kids’ non-fiction, 3 young adult novels, 3 paperback fiction, 6 non-fiction/biography, 1 Reader’s Digest, 1 pop-up book, and a large pixel coloring book with a $12 price tag still on it! You just can’t beat the value – fifty books for $3.00! If you are on a tight budget but love to read, check out your local thrift store.


Summertime Reading

reading a book(photo credit: NBC News)

Schools are out for the summer! This is the first full week that the kids (and their parents) haven’t had to wake up early, eat, shower, and rush off to school. To me, summertime has always been the time of year to gorge on reading books. It’s one of the highlights of the season.

In honor of this prime reading time, I will be reading and reviewing books for kids, ranging from picture books for the early elementary years, to upper elementary books, to young adult novels. I’ve already read a few “kids” books, and found them to be quite enjoyable as an adult. Here’s to reading!

Audio Drama Podcasts

audio fiction podcast

Before television was in every house, there was radio. Classic radio shows in the 1930s and 1940s opened up a whole new world of entertainment for folks. There were comedy skits, westerns, mysteries,  and science fiction. People were mesmerized by this new invention. They listened as individuals, families, and neighbors. Some of the most popular shows were: The Shadow, Gunsmoke, The Adventures Of Sam Spade, Death Valley Days, Lux Radio Theatre, Whistler, Abbot And Costello, Batman, The Great Gildersleeve, Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, and Flash Gordon.

By the 1950s, most homes had television sets, and the popularity of radio dramas dwindled. There was still some interest, but most people switched over to TV for their dramas, and kept their radios mostly for music. In the 1970’s VCRs became common. This was followed by DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Now we have computers, tablets, and smart-phones that all allow us to watch streaming TV shows, which is where we mostly find our drama stories.

Despite all these options for shows, the radio drama format is not dead! You can still listen to the old classic shows on websites like Some sites will even allow you to download files for the shows which are now public domain items, free to all.

In addition, a new version of the old radio drama has been developed: the audio drama podcast. It’s not surprising to see that a new generation of listeners is clamoring for good stories to listen to while driving or doing menial tasks, or when unwinding at the end of the day.  It’s not quite the same as reading a book, but it’s still a way of listening to a story. From the beginning of time, people have loved stories, whether it was an oral tale, a printed book, an audiobook, a radio drama, or a drama podcast. If you have never tried listening to an audio drama podcast, check it out through the “podcast” app on your phone. You might end up loving it!

The Pack-Horse Library

pack-horse librarian
(photo courtesy of

The Great Depression of the 1930s was exceeding difficult for almost everyone in the United States. Jobs were few, and every penny was needed just to provide basic food for families. As the depression stretched on, people needed a distraction from the stress of daily living. They needed books.

In urban areas, people could visit their local library, and go home with something to read. But if you lived in a more remote area, like the mountains of Kentucky, you were out of luck. The solution: pack-horse libraries.

Portable libraries were actually in existence before the Great Depression. The Kentucky Federation Of Women’s Clubs ran traveling libraries from 1896 until the early 1930’s, when they ran out of money. In 1935, the federal government continued the idea. The Works Program Administration (WPA) hired healthy young women to go to mountain communities on horseback with packs of books, serving as portable libraries. It was a tough job, and paid only $28 a month. While the government paid the salaries of the librarians, the state of Kentucky had to come up with the books, and the workers had to provide their own transportation – either using their own horse or renting a horse. Books were donated by more affluent Kentuckians, and as word spread, by people in other states.

It wasn’t easy being a pack-horse librarian. You had to make your circuit at least twice a month, covering 100-120 miles. The mountain roads were difficult to navigate. They had to care for their horse, and their two large saddle-bags of books. What sort of reading material made it into those saddlebags? A lot of classic fiction (Mark Twain was a favorite), the Bible, magazines, recipe books, how-to books, and Sunday school booklets.

As books and magazines became worn out, they were not thrown away. Instead, the librarians would salvage good sections and pages, and glue them into scrapbooks, which went right back into the pack-bags. Even old donated Christmas cards were put to use as bookmarks.

The pack-horse librarians brought books to about 50,000 Kentucky families in 1936, and to 155 schools the next year. These tiny libraries provided much-needed reading material through the rest of the Great Depression. The project was discontinued in 1943, as the economy recovered and people went back to work. But the idea of tiny libraries lives on with bookmobiles in areas that do not have a traditional library.


(photo credit: The Washington Post)

I love a good challenge! Like five years ago, when I started this book site to share information about great books that are available to read. Might I run out of good books to write about? Maybe, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Then there was the challenge several years ago to significantly reduce our family’s grocery bill. That took some time and grocery-store analysis, but we were able to pick the two best stores for our budget and save a fair amount of money.

Last year I challenged myself to close out my Google e-mail account, and switch to a smaller company that is less intrusive in its data-collecting. It was a royal pain in the neck, but the detangling from the tentacles of g-mail was finally complete.

Last year was also the year that our family decided to see if we could do without home internet service for awhile. This was one of our toughest challenges, and I wrote a few posts about our experience.

That brings me to this year, and my latest challenge: to pull the plug on Facebook. Many years ago, when I first signed up, it was a lot of fun. It kept me up with the lives of my relatives and friends. Who had a baby? Who had died? Who graduated? Who was sending out an urgent prayer request? Coffee and Facebook became my first stops in the morning. But as the years went by, the amount of actual news from friends decreased, replaced by endless videos that people wanted me to watch, angry tirades about politicians, memes, and ads for things I should buy.

In addition, I was becoming painfully aware of just how much personal information was being mined by facebook and shared with all of their affiliates. More than 150 companies, news outlets reported, although no one actually seemed to be able to produce a complete list. So I began the tedious process of removing personal pictures, posts and messages from my account. When I mentioned my goal of un-Facebooking to friends, most expressed doubt.
“How will you know what’s going on?”
“You’ll be back.”
“It won’t do any good to close your account, they’ll get your data some other way.”

But how will anything ever change if people aren’t willing to unplug from monster data collectors like Facebook and Google/G-mail? Maybe un-Facing won’t stop the powers that be from continuing to mine information about me. But why should I make it easy for them?


Preserving Our Books


People aren’t doing a whole lot of reading these days. It’s the sad truth. With competition from smart phones, computers, big-screen 4K tvs, and tablets of all sorts, those old-time books are being squeezed out. It seems logical to think that there will gradually be less paper-and-ink books printed. The books I have are precious to me.

Over the years, I have laminated some of my paperbacks with clear contact paper, especially the older ones that are fragile and probably not easily replaced. While it protected them, it did leave the covers looking duller and slightly cloudy. Several days ago I noticed that the official duck-tape company has their own clear laminate. The roll didn’t seem that big (25 sq ft or 2.3 m2), but it was worth trying.

Wow, what a difference from the 3M and other brands! The books didn’t have that plastic-y feeling when I held them. The duck-tape laminate went on easily, and didn’t seem to have as much tendency to form annoying air bubbles. But best of all, it was so clear that you could hardly tell the books were laminated. From now on, I’m sticking with the ducks!

Ear Infections And A Return To Reading

2019-04-06 Face mask from dr office

For the past week I’ve been on vacation and haven’t been reading, which is not the norm. But I wanted to make the most of my time with the relatives. (Actually, I did listen to several favorite audiobooks in the car, but since I’d already read and reviewed them, they don’t count.) Now back at home, I have started a new book. This morning I woke up with a throbbing ear and a bad headache. Fortunately my doctor’s office has walk-in appointments on Saturdays, so off I went.

When I got to the office, the first thing that greeted me was a box of disposable face masks and a sign asking patients to wear one if they had a cough or fever. Since I do have allergies that cause some coughing and sneezing, I put one on. At the check-in counter, there was another box on the counter urging people to wear a mask, in case they didn’t get the hint at the door. After signing in, I joined the other patients in the waiting room, and pulled out my book.

The next person to come in was a woman in her 60s. I watched in amazement as she had a long coughing fit, and didn’t even bother to cover her mouth! She had apparently ignored the masks at the door, and was now spraying her germs all over the waiting room. She continued coughing throughout her check-in with the receptionist, and sat down behind me, where she continued hacking away. The receptionist said nothing. I turned around, looked at the woman, and said, “You should be wearing a mask. There’s a box on the counter.” The woman just glared at me, and did nothing. Nothing.

Ten minutes later, I was in one exam room and I would hear the woman being escorted to the room across the hall from mine, still coughing her lungs out. Soon enough, the doc came in and confirmed that I had severe allergies as well as a nasty ear infection, and sent me on my way to the pharmacy for antibiotics.

It’s hard to believe that there are people well past the age of pre-schoolers who won’t cover their coughs with their hand or a Kleenex, and that refuse to wear a mask when it is offered. There’s no beauty contest at the doctor’s office, only sick people trying to get better. Well, I guess you can’t force folks to have common sense.