After last month’s piece about reasons to have a home library, a reader wrote me asking how a person could economically build up such a library. I replied with some general advice involving good places to buy used books, but I left out the role that serendipity has played in many of the book acquisitions I’ve made over the years.
Not long after that email exchange, I had perhaps the most serendipitous experience to-date, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. The result of it was that I added over forty more books to my ever-growing home library – all for what one new hardcover book would cost.
Here’s how it happened.
Due to a family tragedy, I attend a suicide support group with some wonderful people. I felt a growing connection with a nice couple, so I decided to see if they had Facebook accounts. She did, so I sent a friend request, and she quickly accepted it.
Then, since I link a lot of my writing information to my Facebook account, she saw that I was doing an author talk online, and she viewed it. She then sent me a message that she would like to buy my books and asked if I would bring them to the next support group meeting. I said I would.
At the next meeting, when it was wrapping up, I took my books out of a bag and was preparing to sign them for her. Others noticed my books and asked about them. I told them what they were about, and I shared my love of books with the group.
At that point, another member told me that she was in the process of trying to get rid of her mother’s extensive book collection, and she asked if I’d like to go look at it and see if there were any books I’d want. Naturally, I said that I would. I gave her my email contact, and then I went home.
A few days later she sent me a message, and we set up a time for me to drive to her house. On the way, I admit, I wasn’t really all that optimistic about finding anything that I’d want.
Every reader has his or her own tastes, and I’m picky about what I bring home. The one thing that compelled me to go to her house was that her mother had been an English teacher for many years, as am I, so I thought there might be a possibility of finding quality literature.
When I arrived, I thought I’d probably only need about twenty minutes to go through the books.
Boy, was I wrong! She hadn’t exaggerated about the extent of her mother’s collection. Two and a half hours later, I walked out of her house with a very large box stuffed full of books. I easily could have taken three of four large boxes, but I forced myself to stay under 50 books.
Here is a sampling of the treasures I added to my home library thanks to this serendipitous event: John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage,” a barely-used hardbound copy of “Anna Karenina,” two Steinbecks, two Micheners, Carl Sandburg’s three-part biography of Abraham Lincoln, and “The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham” in two volumes.
Someday my daughter will have to parcel off my home library to others.
Hopefully, serendipity will then lead my books to grateful new owners.
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Contact Marshall at email@example.com.
This month’s reading selection is “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.