The Power of a $20 Bill

20 dollar bill

On Saturday, someone gave me a $20 bill because they appreciated something I had done for them. I said it was unnecessary, they insisted, so I accepted it. Less than an hour later, I stopped at the local library to pick up a few holds that had come in. Turns out the library was having a used book sale, which is irresistible to a person such as myself.

In the space of about ten minutes, I had a stack of items to buy – nine non-fiction books, two biographies, ten fiction books, four classic science-fiction magazines, and four DVDs. All were in excellent condition.  The total cost – $19.50!

Later in the day I sat down to analyze the value of the book sale purchases. Most of them had the price either on the dust cover or on the book itself. Amazon’s website supplied the prices for the few that did not have the price posted. Here’s what I found:

Non-fiction books:      $139.42
Biographies:                     35.95
Fiction:                            176.91
Magazines:                         6.75
DVDs:                                 37.41
Total original value:  $396.44

That is approximately a 95% off sale! So if buying books new at the bookstore is out of your budget range, keep your eye out for library book-sales. You just never know what you might find for $20 or under.






Poor Mutilated Books!

2017-11-15 books with mutilated covers

Whenever I find myself in a thrift store, I check out their book section. There are five thrift stores in our area that are great to visit, and two of them have netted me some astoundingly inexpensive reading material. Some books are in pristine condition, with that never-been-read look about them. Others are in “loved” condition, with evidence of having been read many, many times before being donated. But a few weeks ago I discovered a third type of thrift store book: the mutilated book.

I had actually been on the hunt for a specific book series called “A.D. Chronicles” for our church library, as a dedicated reader had read the first book and asked if we could get the series for our tiny library. Unfortunately, the 12-book series would have cost between $117 and $130 dollars, according to Amazon and I sadly let my fellow reader know that we had no church library budget, but that I would keep my eyes open at thrift stores.

Several weeks ago I walked into a local Salvation Army store, and to my amazement, found the first six books of the series sitting on the bottom shelf of the book section! I snatched up the books, set them on a nearby table for sale, and snapped their picture. Six dollars later, the books were on the way home with me.

At home, I surveyed the damage. They were public library books that had been discarded. Let me say, I have bought plenty of discarded public library material, but never seen books treated in such a rude fashion. Someone had carelessly ripped off part of the dust cover spines. They had stamped “discarded” 6-8 times on each one (serious overkill). Inside, they had cut out the barcode instead of simply drawing a line through it as most libraries do.

2017-11-15 book barcode cut out

As I turned the first few pages, I noticed that the discarder had actually cut through five or six pages as they removed the barcodes. You would think the person would have realized what they were doing after the first book, but no, all six of them received the same treatment.

2017-11-15 book pages cut

Time to do some repair work. I could have throw away the mutilated dust covers, but they had great artwork on the front. So I carefully washed the plastic covers to remove the dirt that had accumulated on them, removed the yellow stickers on each, and laid them on a towel to dry.

2017-11-15 book covers washed

I added old-fashioned checkout cards and pockets to the six books. Lastly, I made some huge spine labels to cover over the mutilated part of their dust covers. Much better!

2017-11-15 book damage covered

These books have found a new home in our closet-sized church library, and folks will be able to check out and enjoy these once-rejected books.

Argos Book Shop

2017-06-14 Argos Book Shop b

I thought it was about time to try out a used bookstore I hadn’t been to before. My internet search led me to a little shop in a mostly-residential neighborhood. My first obstacle was to find a place to park my car. There was a small lot a few doors down, but it was unclear whether it was private or public. As I had no desire to have my car towed away, I drove down some side streets, circled around, and found a spot not too far away.

2017-06-14 Argos used bookstore hardy boys


Once inside, the place seemed deserted, until I spotted a man slouched down behind the counter, his head hunched over a computer. He said nothing, so I just started quietly exploring. The area nearest the door was the neatest, with collections of comic books organized in boxes and individual slip covers. There were also a lot of classic youth series, like “The Hardy Boys”, “Nancy Drew” and “Cherry Ames”.

2017-06-14 Argos used bookstore music section

The farther in I went, the messier it got. There were bookshelves so high they could only be reached with a ladder, as well as books lying on the floor. As I looked up, I could see what had once been an elegant ceiling, but was now in disrepair. There was only one chair in the entire shop for customers to sit in, which seemed odd. I passed by fiction, mystery, presidents, history, music, and other non-fiction sections. The prices, which were hand-written inside the front cover of each book, were a tad high.

2017-06-14 Argos used bookstore messy

The science fiction/fantasy area was quite large. I was impressed (although it isn’t my typical reading preference). Then I found the 50 cent bookshelf! There were hundreds of old yellowed paperbacks from many decades ago that beckoned me. I picked out a half dozen of them and brought them to the counter. The man behind the computer rang them up with little enthusiasm, and I walked out the door and back to my car.

2017-06-14 Argoes books I bought

Based on my experience, I would give this used bookstore a “C”. With bookstores going out of business left and right, kudos to the owner for keeping it open. But if you want people to keep coming in, you need to have a welcoming smile, a cheerful hello, and a willingness to help your customers find at least one great book to take home.

Visiting A Used Book Store

2016-07-09 Herm at used bookstore a


Yesterday was the perfect day for a drive – cool, cloudy, and not much traffic since it was a Saturday. The husband and I hopped in the car and headed for a used book store about an hour from home. A friend from work had told me about the place. Turns out it’s the third largest used book store in our state. When we got to the tiny town it was in, we parked right in front of the store. (Well, actually the husband parked the car, as I cannot parallel park to save my life.) The store front looked quaint and small. But when we got inside, it was rather like Alice in Wonderland and the rabbit hole. The more we meandered about the place, the larger it grew.

Just inside the front door were books in glass cabinets that looked fragile, as if they might crumble if handled. There were signs warning that the books needed to be handled gently. But the rest of the store had books begging to be picked up and looked through. No matter where my eyes cast about, there were shelves loaded down with hardcovers and paperbacks. There were also piles of books stacked on the floor, waiting for shelf spots. Where, oh where to begin…

2016-07-09 used bookstore in Three Rivers

Art history books. Architecture and carpentry. Crafts. Fishing. Science and biology. Old fiction readers for school children from the early 1900’s. Tiny yellowed dime-store paperbacks from the mid-1900’s. Classic science fiction. Whodunit mysteries. Horror, romance, and inspirational fiction. And westerns – more western novels than I have ever imagined existed. But the bulk of the fiction area – spread over two rooms – was general fiction, sorted alphabetically by author’s last name. Fiction written a few years ago, fiction written decades ago. When I thought we’d seen every row of books, I spotted a wooden stairway and realized they had a lower level full of books too! Downstairs were books about just about any country you could think of, as well as Native American books and other non-fiction topics.

There’s just something about a used book store that is more satisfying than picking up my Kindle or stopping in a Barnes and Noble to see what’s new. It’s the smell of old ink and newsprint paper. It’s the old-fashioned book covers with their hand-drawn artwork. It’s the creak of old bare wooden floors under the feet. It’s the soft, worn feel of pages that have been turned many times. It’s the peaceful, languid pace of folks wandering about. It’s the quietness – no elevator music or loud conversation. Time seems to stand still while you are there.

If you’ve never been to a used book store, ask your friends or neighbors where to find one in your area, or google it on your computer. It make take an hour to drive to one, or you may be lucky enough to have one in your area. Don’t pass up the chance to be like Alice and wander into the rabbit hole!