Category Archives: Book Fairs

Chapter 705 Book Fair Hangovers, My Assistant, and Book Themed Teapots

It’s Saturday. I still have what I like to call “Book Fair Hangover”. Book Fair Hangover does not refer to drunkenness; it refers instead to putting things right after returning home from a book fair. Almost two weeks later, and I still have yet to unpack any of the boxes of books. I also still have to enter the invoices I wrote at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles fairs in my computer. Mostly, I spent the last two weeks shipping some books, writing about the fairs, catching up on emails (853 in a 10 day period, business and personal) and voice mails (22 non-urgent phone calls needing to be returned), replenishing the groceries, and doing laundry in my new washing machine. The old one was beyond repair and TH had it replaced while I was away at the book fairs.

After living without a washing machine in the week before the fairs began, I have never been so thankful to have a working washing machine. I could not make time to do anything bookish without it.  I have christened it My Assistant. When I refer to My Assistant, people assume that  I am referring to an employee, perhaps a cataloguer or book scout of some sort. No, not for me the run-of-the-mill assistant. My Assistant lives out in my garage, far away from the books. She can’t even read or write and it’s useless to try to teach her about antiquarian books, but she has three temperatures and a spin cycle and she gets our clothes sparkling clean in a jiffy.

Sprinkled in between all of the above were Tom and Huck’s basketball playoffs and their corresponding practices, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and guitar lessons. These require lots of driving after school on my part. Remember all those meals I cooked in advance and froze for future busy nights? We’ve eaten all them as I tried to get caught up.  They have been my saving grace since returning home from the fairs. It has been my pleasure not to have to answer the question, “What’s for dinner tonight?” as I sifted through messages and plotted blog posts. I now need to cook more of them and replenish my supply.

February has been a whirlwind — how is it that we are already at the last week of the month? Since it is the weekend, I am going to make my menu plan for the week and go grocery shopping. After that, I’m giving myself permission to take a break with a recent acquisition while My Assistant toils in the garage. The recent acquisition — my latest book-themed teapot. I love this one — it’s a bookshop!

And these. These have been waiting for me to read since early February.

I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive, the day where I sit with a hot pot of tea in a bookish teapot and perform my book nerd ritual of reading all the bookish journals for almost as long as I waited for the book fairs.

See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 704 Also Seen Around the Book Fair in Pasadena, Or, Legends of Southern California

I have a few more photos from the book fair to share with you, photos of various books, booksellers, and related items.  Hope you enjoy!

I just like the cover of this book, and its title fits the way I will remember this particular book fair:

IOBA (Independent Online Booksellers Association) Officers — Vice President Howard Prouty of ReadInk on the left and President Joachim Koch of Books Tell You Why on the right.

I am in love with the hand-colored frontispiece of this miniature book:

Cute series books from Tavistock Books:

I’m a sucker for Italian books with lovely bindings (yes, these shown below are mine, some of which sold during the course of the fair). If you have any like these, and are interested in selling them, please let me know.

You can’t go to southern California without thinking about the movies.  This circa 1887 Isaiah West Taber photo album of San Francisco, Yosemite, and parts of southern California is ready for its close up. Coming soon to a theater near you . . .

. . . it’s ABAA Book Fair, The Movie! No, really. Cinestories is making a short promotional piece about the book fair and filmed many of the books on display at the fair, including a couple of my own. I really hope my books don’t end up on the cutting room floor. I and many other booksellers were also interviewed for the short film they’re making.  It was exhilarating and exciting! It was also extremely awkward! I am definitely not a natural in front of a camera. I made them let me “practice” my answers once so that I could avoid saying aloud California-isms that, after living here my entire life, I cannot avoid saying, things like “like” and “um” and the worst one of all, “totally awesome!” What kind of antiquarian bookseller says “totally awesome”?  (Answer: Apparently I do when nervous or excited, but I try to keep that to my internal dialogue with myself. It’s not pretty on-screen or at a dignified antiquarian book fair.)

Nervousness aside, it was totally awesome being interviewed. 🙂

I didn’t get enough of a chance to leave my booth and walk around and take more photographs, so these next are from my own booth again. Note to self: Do not expect to have time to walk around at a fair with 200 booksellers if you expect to stay at your booth and sell books to the 2,500 people who walked through the door. Next time, enlist a friend as an assistant. Assistants are, like, totally awesome! I’m sorry. I’m in a humorous mood today, and I can’t help myself. At least I have until now avoided the other really awful California colloquialism — totally rad.  As in, my bookselling good luck charm — the Dante bookend  — is totally rad and I am so glad he came to this fair to bring me good luck.

My other bookselling good luck charms — a poker chip from a poker tournament I won and a St. John medal. St. John of God is the patron saint of booksellers. He was himself a bookseller in Spain in the 1500s.  I bring these good luck charms along because I need all the help I can get and to remind me that antiquarian bookselling is part having good books, part knowledge and skill, part gambling, and part hoping and praying that your fair is a good one.

One of the best things about a book fair is that you often dine out or have drinks with colleagues at the end of the day. Some of my colleagues are real foodies, always seeking out the best restaurant in town or the most exotic type of food. Bookselling adventures combined with culinary adventures are terrific. It’s always a pleasure to eat with my food-loving friends, because then you get desserts like this one:

Totally rad:  Ken Sanders, me, and Cynthia Gibson being regaled with antiquarian bookselling legends in the Sheraton lounge at the end of the last day of the fair.

See you in the stacks!


Filed under A Bookseller's Education, Book Fairs

Chapter 703 Part 3 of the 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair 2012, Or, No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I woke early Friday morning, planning to finish setting up my booth and do a little book shopping prior to the fair opening to the public at 3:00 p.m.  When I entered the exhibit hall, I saw a table with lots of bookseller catalogues that visitors to the fair could take with them. What a delight to see The Collective Catalogue, featuring my books and the books of my bookselling friends right next to the other bookseller catalogues! (See top left corner.)

Here’s my booth as it finally looked when it was all set for the fair:

Some bookshelves:

More bookshelves:

My booth was on a corner, so I did what I could to utilize the outside edge of my real estate:

Glass counter case:

The fair opened at 3:00 p.m. sharp, and I am happy to say that many people filled the wide aisles and crowded the booths. The abundant publicity certainly helped this fair get a good turn out. The booth was busy with activity, some people buying and some not — but, hey, when your booth is one of 200, you accept the fact that not everyone who visits it will buy a book. I met some new customers, some librarians, some booksellers, and some book collectors, I sold some books. All was good, and then the fair closed 9:00 p.m. It was an exhausting 12-hour day, but not so exhausting that I couldn’t enjoy a delicious dinner with some colleagues afterward.

Here are photos of a few other booksellers’ booths:

Brad and Jennifer Johnson of The Book Shop. Young Mr. Koch of Books Tell You Why is also in the photo:

B & B Rare Books

My mentor, the distinguished Mr. Z of Tavistock Books:

One of my across the aisle neighbors was William Reese Company and right next door to them was Australia’s Hordern House. Even though I had every intention of introducing myself to my neighbors, I had a terrible attack of shyness and fear of booksellers-whose-books-cannot-be-matched-by-anyone-else and barely said anything to them all weekend. (Why must I be so socially awkward? I really wasn’t trying to be snobbish, but for a book nerd, meeting such a bookseller is like meeting a rock star. I get tongue-tied and nervous. I tend to forget they’re just people hoping to have a good fair, too.) Truly, I was honored and awed to be in such esteemed company.  You want great books? These two firms have better-than-great books! And I have to add a special thank you to Teri Osborn of William Reese Company, who, when my booth was too busy for me to leave, brought me a sandwich to eat during her own lunch break. Twice! Thanks, Teri!  Nick Aretakis, who also works for William Reese Co. and who I knew via email but had never met in person, bravely took the walk across the aisle to my booth to say hello and wish me a good fair.  And Derek and Anthony from Hordern House cheerfully said hello and introduced themselves during the course of the weekend.

I wasn’t the only rookie at the fair.  The Book Hunter’s Holiday booth was right next door to the booths of two other ABAA rookies, Howard Prouty of ReadInk Books and John Howell of John Howell for Books. It was such a relief not to be the only brand new bookseller at the fair and a real comfort to know that the other new guys were in the two booths next to mine. Most appreciated was the occasional help over the weekend of Howard and John’s assistants, Gayle, Beth, and Merle. We referred to ourselves as Rookies’ Row.

Left to right: Howard Prouty, John Howell, and me.

Too often I hear booksellers say that we’re not in the Golden Age of bookselling any more. Perhaps we’re not. I wasn’t a bookseller during the so-called Golden Age. I wasn’t even alive during the Golden Age, although I’ve read about and it sounds like it was a good time. All I know is that my days at this particular fair were Glory Days. I sold some books – not all of them, but enough of them. I bought some books — not all I wanted, but enough of them. I met lots of new book collectors, librarians, and booksellers. I even met a couple of videographers (more on that tomorrow). I dined with friends and colleagues every night. I heard lots of antiquarian bookselling legend and lore. Last weekend, in the supposed sunset of the printed book, in an era dominated by digital technology, in the sleepy town of Pasadena, just outside of Los Angeles, hundreds of booksellers and thousands of bibliophiles came together from all over the world to celebrate the printed word.  I can’t imagine anything more golden than that.

A few more photos to wrap it all up tomorrow!

Adding this last song from my book fair playlist. Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem (the past and the future of Rock performing together) singing “No Surrender”. This song’s for all you booksellers out there who think the era of printed books is over:

We busted out of class had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school
Tonight I hear the neighborhood drummer sound
I can feel my heart begin to pound
You say you’re tired and you just want to close your eyes and follow your dreams down

We made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter’s night with a vow to defend
No retreat no surrender

Now young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
I’m ready to grow young again
And hear your sister’s voice calling us home across the open yards
Well maybe we could cut someplace of our own
With these drums and these guitars

Blood brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend
No retreat no surrender

Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim
The walls of my room are closing in
There’s a war outside still raging
you say it ain’t ours anymore to win
I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies in my lover’s bed
with a wide open country in my eyes
and these romantic dreams in my head

Blood brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend
No retreat no surrender”


Filed under A Bookseller's Education, Book Fairs

Chapter 702 Part 2 of The 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair 2012, Or, Put Me in Coach, I’m Ready to Play

You can read Part 1 of this post here.

Despite feeling a little bit discouraged about the car and home repairs when I left my house for the book fair, my eclectic music playlist helped get this ABAA rookie in a book fair state of mind.  I realized that, whether the timing was for better or for worse, I had my chance to sell books at a fair that less than a decade ago I’d been too intimidated to attend even to shop.  I realized that despite the distractions, this book fair was exactly where I had planned, worked, and wanted to be. Car and home repairs notwithstanding, now was the time to reach the goal I’d set five years ago — the goal of being able to exhibit at an ABAA fair. I was going to The Show.

I arrived in Pasadena late Tuesday, along with Thoughtful Husband, who was in the Los Angeles area on a business trip of his own. While he went to his business meeting on Wednesday, I drove out to nearby Covina to see my bookselling buddies and catalogue collaborators Brad and Jen Johnson at The Book Shop for a little pre-game book scouting. Brad and Jen, who are members of the Southern California Chapter of the ABAA and who are on the Book Fair Committee, did not disappoint. Their shop was filled with lots of great books (I left with an entire box-full), lots of other visiting booksellers (a few of them left with more than one box-full of books), and even a party tent with lunch and libations out in the back! I stayed for lunch and had a chance to see a couple more of my  cross-country catalogue cohorts — Josh Mann and Sunday Steinkirchner of B& B Rare Books (New York) and Kent Tschanz of Ken Sanders Rare Books (Salt Lake City). I also had the chance to visit with Teri Osborn of William Reese Co. (New Haven) and Priscilla Lowry Gregor of Lowry James Rare Prints and Books (Seattle). After heading back to the hotel for dinner with TH, we stopped in the hotel lounge, where we had drinks with Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis, Abby Schoolman Stevens of Bauman Rare Books, Jeff and Susan Hirsch of Jeff  Hirsch Books and a few more of the usual suspects. It was so nice to be able to finally introduce TH to some of the people he’s only heard about. We had a great time!

With Kent and Abby at the hotel lounge:

On Thursday morning, I was up early to drop off my books at the tailgate load-in. Thoughtful Husband, his business concluded, flew home to relieve my parents, who had been staying with Tom and Huck. Shortly after the load-in of many boxes of books, I entered the exhibit hall to begin setting up.

There were banners like this one all over town advertising the fair. The amount PR for the fair was amazing.  Within 24 hours of arriving, I saw one magazine article about the fair, a Los Angeles times article, an NPR report, and a bookseller who was interviewed for the local news. (Well done, Steve Gertz!)  I have never been at a book fair that was so well promoted, and like most of the 200 exhibitors at the fair, I hoped the advertising would bring a lot of customers by time the fair opened to the public on Friday night.

Once set up was finished — I actually wasn’t finished setting up. The building closed at 6:00 p.m. and I had to leave — the booksellers were invited to a marvelous reception at Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum. The Book Fair Committee of the Southern California Chapter of the ABAA had really outdone themselves. The reception was held in a marvelous museum with an open courtyard.  All of the exhibits were open for viewing. There were lots of delicious hors d’ouevres to eat and drinks to quench the thirst of 200 hundred booksellers who’d spent most of the day in hard physical labor preparing their booths.  The Book Fair Committee apparently even ordered up lovely weather for the reception. It was a balmy, near-70 degree evening. Here are a couple of my rather dark photos. Trust me when I say it was a beautiful event in a beautiful setting.

I looked forward to completing the set-up of my booth on Friday morning and to the opening of the fair to the public at 3:00 p.m. on Friday. Before I sign off for tonight, I have to congratulate the entire Book Fair Committee. The new venue for the fair — the Pasadena Convention Center, the very-close-by hotels, the great proximity of shops and restaurants, even the weather were all better than any of the book fairs I have ever bought or sold books at.  A job well done, Book Fair Committee!

After setting up most of my booth and celebrating with so many of my bookselling colleagues, I went sleep Thursday night feeling ready at last for my first ABAA fair. I fell asleep humming a verse from another song on my bizarre book fair music playlist, John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”:

“Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all – a moment in the sun;
(crack of the bat) It’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

Oh, put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today;
Look at me, I can be Centerfield.”

To be continued with pictures from the fair itself . . . See you in the stacks!

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Chapter 701 Part 1 of The 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair 2012, Or, It’s A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock n’ Roll

There’s an American slang term for major league baseball — The Show — that’s “The Show” with an upper case “T” and an upper case “S”.  Being in The Show means playing ball in the big leagues, among the professional players.  Before leaving for last weekend’s 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, one of the three largest book fairs in the United States sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), I felt a lot like a rookie player who was going to The Show. This was my chance, at long last, to check out the Big League of bookselling from the seller’s side of the booth.

Like a typical rookie, I had little idea of what to expect.  I was excited. I was supremely happy to be going to The Show, having finally reached a goal I set for myself five years ago. I had wishful and wild delusions (fantasies — not actual expectations) of selling my entire booth of books. (This fantasy is based on a bit of antiquarian bookselling lore that I heard actually happened to another bookseller at an ABAA fair a couple of decades ago.) I was also nervous. Ok. Terrified. I was scared my books would pale in comparison to those of the other booksellers. I worried that my books might not sell at all. And with a few big bills looming in my immediate future, the thought of no sales haunted me like a specter. In short, I was a typical rookie mixture of awe, hope, fear, and wanting to prove that Book Hunter’s Holiday was worthy of being at The Show.

Like a long, nine-inning baseball game, survival of the book fair itself would require pacing. Following immediately on the heels of the previous weekend’s San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print, and Paper Fair (three days), the ABAA fair in Pasadena, California required one full day of travel, one and a half days of set-up, three days of book fair, one morning seminar, several evening receptions, dinners, and post-dinner drinks, and one full day of driving home. The pace would only be complicated by several disastrous happenings at home just before the fairs began. Frazzled, tired, and unprepared due to domestic disasters was not at all how I envisioned going to The Show, after nearly five years waiting to be eligible to participate. By time I left my house for Pasadena last Tuesday, I was a jumble of nerves and exhaustion.

I knew that I needed to focus on books, to turn off the negative thoughts and worries colliding in my mind. So I decided to do something with which many athletes and runners are familiar. I made a special playlist of music to help me focus on The Show. This sort of playlist can be any sort of music that you like, but it must be music that makes you feel good. It must be music that inspires you in some way. I was a kid and a teenager in the 1970s and 1980s, so I like all the Classic Rock, Heavy Metal, New Wave, Ska, and Punk music from that era. I also like Classical music and Country music.  (Remember: “I am large. I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman)  To top it off, Tom and Huck, as a bit of a farewell gesture and an effort to get their old Mom to be aware of current musical trends, helped me assemble a playlist of what they call “Decent Music from the 21st Century”.  I had all sorts of songs from which to choose on the long drive to Pasadena.

As I began my journey to The Show, I knew I needed to hear a song that is fantastic, bombastic, and dramatic, a song that contains both truth and ridiculousness; frankly, I needed a song that would keep me awake on the 6+ hour drive.  I chose a song by Australian band AC/DC, a 1974 hit whose title metaphorically sums up my journey in antiquarian bookselling to date:  “It’s a Long Way to the Top If You Wanna Rock n’ Roll”. (Really, you can never go wrong with the combination of electric guitar and bagpipe solo. It never fails to uplift.) 🙂

Part 2  of the fair report to follow tomorrow! See you in the stacks! Meanwhile, video and lyrics of my personal bookselling theme song for the fair are below. If you don’t want to watch or hear it all, watch at least 1:30-2:45 for the insanely great combination of bagpipes and electric guitars.

Ridin’ down the highway
Goin’ to a show
Stop in all the by-ways

Playin’ rock n’ roll
Gettin’ robbed
Gettin’ stoned
Gettin’ beat up, broken boned
Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks

It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
If you think it’s easy doin’ one night stands
Try playin’ in a rock roll band
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll

Hotel, motel
Make you wanna cry
Lady do the hard sell
Know the reason why
Gettin’ old
Gettin’ grey
Gettin’ ripped off
Gettin’ sold
Second hand
That’s how it goes
Playin’ in a band

It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
If you wanna be a star on stage and screen
Look out it’s rough and mean
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll


Filed under A Bookseller's Education, Book Fairs

Chapter 700 In The Beginning . . .

Here’s how my booth, Booth #506, looked upon my arrival at the 45th Annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena last weekend. Empty. Needing some detail work and some books. Kind of like this blog post. I really, really wanted to write a post about the book fair tonight, but I’ve been away from home so long that I forgot it was Valentine’s Day! So, please forgive me for choosing instead to enjoy the moment with Thoughtful Husband, Tom, and Huck this evening. The full report is coming. Thanks for understanding!

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Chapter 699 Upon Arriving Home From The Book Fair

Hello, there! I’ve returned from the book fair in Pasadena held over the weekend. I spent all of today driving from Pasadena to my hometown of San Mateo (near San Francisco) and I am exhausted. I’m heading to bed to get some sleep and I’ll be back sometime tomorrow (possibly late tomorrow) with a full report of the fair. For now, the short report is:

1)I met a few readers of this blog in person. Thanks to those who took time to seek out my booth from the 200 other booksellers exhibiting and for introducing yourselves. It was lovely to meet you! Thanks, as always, for reading my blog, too.

2) The fair was a solid one for me, with steady sales throughout the weekend– I did not break my own record, in terms of money made from selling books, but I definitely broke my personal record  in terms of quantity of books I’ve sold at a book fair.

3) The new venue of the Pasadena Convention Center was a big hit. The Book Fair Committee of the Southern California Chapter of the ABAA is to be congratulated!

4) I had lots of fun being at the fair, attending several receptions and dinners, and even attending an appraisal seminar for booksellers.  I have so much to share with you. Tomorrow. I promise. (But maybe not until tomorrow evening!)

See you in the stacks!

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