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Chapter 709 Barter Books, Or, The Story of “Keep Calm and Carry On”

I have a goal in mind. Some may call it a fantasy, but it’s real. It’s a goal. I will do it some day, even if it’s not for years. (Oh, my, this goal is starting to sound a lot like Catalogue #2.) My goal is to take a literary tour of England. I’ve been there once before, years ago, for a few days shortly after graduating college. I visited some of the usual tourist spots — London (the British Library!), Stratford (birthplace of Shakespeare!), Cambridge (I liked it so much when I visited that I sent my parents a postcard asking them to send money so I could stay and go to school there — they didn’t).

Even though I’ve been lucky enough to visit England once, I didn’t have enough time to see many of the places I wanted to. I’d like to go to London Rare Books School. I’d like to tour the Lake District (home of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth and other poets). I’d like to visit Oxford. I’d like to tour a grand old country house. I’d like to enjoy tea and a scone the British way. But most of all, when I return, I’d like to visit the bookshops of England.

I was reminded of my goal of visiting England and its bookshops when I saw this video today about Barter Books, which is one of the most beautiful bookshops I’ve seen in a while.

I’m adding this place to the list of things I’d like to see when I get to England some day. I think you should, too. Meanwhile, Keep Calm and Carry On!

See you in the stacks!


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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 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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Chapter 698 Pep Talk To Myself On The Occasion Of My First ABAA Fair, Or, Rudy Revisited, Or, “I’ve been ready for this my whole life!”

I probably won’t do much blogging from Pasadena, so the blog will be silent for about a week until I return home. I’m really thrilled to sell books at my first ABAA Fair (and terrified — what if no one buys any of my books?!) At one of the earliest book fairs I did, in San Francisco in 2007, I compared my being able to participate in the book fair to Rudy Ruettiger’s ability to be part of the awesome, totally awesome Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team.  Though I’m  not really an avid fan of American football and I know that lots of people (not me) think the movie “Rudy” is a bit corny, I notice lots of ways in which football is comparable to my experience in antiquarian bookselling. (Perhaps a topic for a future post?)

When I started my bookselling business in 2007, a few people (very few, but unfortunately I have a long memory), some of whom were booksellers and some not, told me that I shouldn’t hope to become a successful antiquarian bookseller or to join the ABAA.  Too late to join an industry that some view as a dinosaur on the verge of extinction. Too old to be starting in a business that takes years if not decades to learn. Too busy with family obligations to accomplish or contribute much. Some of what was said to me proved true; some has not. It’s five years later and, thanks to the support and encouragement of many others and to my own stubbornness, I’m still here buying and selling books and loving every minute of it. I’m not a major player, a quarterback of antiquarian bookselling. I don’t call the plays, and I sometimes fumble and have a bad book fair with lower than expected sales.  I’m not particularly well known as a bookseller by those outside of this geographic area, and my books are not necessarily the rarest in the room at a book fair, but I made the team and I’m making progress each  year. Good enough for me. Thanks for coming along for the ride with me!

So, am I ready for my first ABAA book fair?

“I’ve been ready for this my whole life!”

(If you don’t have time to watch this three minute video clip, I suggest watching from 1:49 to 2:05. You’ll understand why I chose the title I did for this post.)

Whatever happens at my first ABAA fair, whether anyone buys my books or not, I’ll remember getting to this point for the rest of my life.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Will I ever be carried out of a book fair exhibition hall hoisted on the shoulders of my fellow booksellers? I don’t know and I don’t care.

I’m just thrilled to be a player in the game.

See you at the fair!


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Chapter 695 Making Progress

It’s 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night and I’ve packed about half of the boxes I’ll be bringing to the book fairs in San Francisco and Pasadena. Making progress. One book at a time.

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Chapter 694 Bang Head Here, Or, Born of Frustration

As if the little list of major break-downs and repairs I listed yesterday wasn’t enough to make me feel frustrated during the week before two big book fairs (usually an extra busy time), today brought another mishap.

The washing machine suddenly started making terrible grinding noises during the spin cycle. It sounds something like this:

Yes. Really.

I think I need one of these:

All I can say at this point, besides wanting to shout a few expletives (sorry, Mom), is that quite often creativity is born of frustration. Sometimes, if I look hard enough, I can see small graces in having to deal with the chaos of the unexpected.  For example, I really dislike the chore of loading boxes of books and book cases in and out of a book fair. The heavy boxes, the multiple trips in and out of the exhibit hall, and the folding bookcases that have more than once pinched my fingers fill me with dread. This week, I’m not even thinking about the hard physical work part of a book fair. This week, after the cataclysmic convergence of multiple household dilemmas, just the ability to still be able to go to the book fairs in San Francisco and Pasadena seems like a great gift. Not only will I get to forget the problems at home for a few days, but I will get to spend quality time with books and other book lovers. Going to the book fairs won’t fix the problems here at home, but it will provide a welcome distraction, a chance to regroup, and a moment to be refreshed. For that, I am thankful. Wish me luck! Please. 🙂

See you in the stacks!

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