A “Book Haul” From One of the Marys

From Mary K:

My daughter Rachel has a blog, “Pursuing the White Whale” where she does book reviews and shares photos of her “book hauls,” essentially giving her readers a tour of her ever-expanding library and unveiling her latest acquisitions. While I revel in her delight of books, my own “book hauls” have evolved and changed over the years and have rarely been shared with others, besides my long-suffering husband.

Both the Marys love stationery and reading, but of the two of us, I am the more apt to purchase books. Perhaps that is to be expected, considering my husband and I homeschool, ran a bookstore, and sold books through the mail and on eBay for several years. As owners of a used bookstore, we began attending library book sales together in November 1995. We thought nothing of bringing fifteen to twenty boxes of books home from some of those sales. And despite my love of children’s books, I kept very few for myself. I knew exactly what would sell and was a whiz at grabbing titles quickly. My daughter Elizabeth was also trained in the art, and with the two of us snatching up treasures, we could collect ten filled boxes in the first twenty minutes of a sale. David was there essentially to carry the boxes, though he would occasionally fill one to our ten, knowing which romances and biographies to pick up for his customers, reselling them for $2-$4 each. I knew the children’s and vintage tomes, knew that the right Lenora Mattingly Weber, Lois Lenski, or Maud Hart Lovelace could sell for $50 or more. In those early days of eBay, the market was not yet glutted with those highly-sought after authors.The same library discards now might net less than $5 each. We had six children at the time, and struggled to make ends meet, so I wasn’t aiming to add to my own library. My dream was to someday own my childhood favorites, a dream that has since come true.

book haul 003But new books? If you are an avid patron of the library, as both Marys are, why buy books? Like the daughter who likely learned it from me, I love being surrounded by books, desire ownership of those with lovely covers and favorites I have read. For me, it isn’t just enough to read a particularly good book, I want to own it. That can get expensive, but in those years that my husband and I sold them, I got into the habit of buying books for less than a dollar each. Even after we no longer had a bookstore, we attended book sales together, and I began adding to my personal collection. We’d also hold huge garage sales every year so I’d pick up $1 sale bags of books specifically for resale, to fund my own book-buying habit. Those days are long gone. Since David’s death, I’ve held very few garage sales and attended only a handful of book sales.

But I do still buy books. I love owning signed copies of books from authors I admire or those I know personally.

book haul 004I also purchase books at thrift stores and HalfPrice Books. And when I am working on a book proposal, I don’t just research the complementary and competing titles, I actually read them. Since I might want to do some underlining, I prefer to own them. That is why you will see Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy, Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking and Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw’s Friendship for the Journey on my bookshelf. I read those books before I worked on my book project on the corresponding subject. I don’t stop there, either. I continue to read narratives on the topics of couponing, caregiving, cancer, grief, memoir, widowhood, and friendship, even after my own book is out. I love research. I thrive on it, and it is a huge part of my writing. Mary H, on the other hand, does not love it, and touches on this difference in her section of our chapter on the topic of jealousy between friends:
“And did I mention she loves research? I envy her ability to grab a subject by its teeth and shake it all over the place until she’s bled so much information from a variety of sources that there’s little left she doesn’t know. How does she do that? Doing research papers in high school and college tried my patience, but Mary thrives on it. I wish I did.” (Mary Jedlicka Humston, page 102, “Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink”)

I admit I buy fewer books since becoming a library director in December 2013, mostly because if I am drawn to a book, I just purchase it for the library collection. I can’t do this with all the books I want to read, however, because there are many obscure titles and topics that none of my patrons would read and it wouldn’t make sense to purchase them for a small-town library. Which is why I will occasionally buy books through Book Outlet, or even Amazon, if it is a brand new book that can’t be found used.

This is the “book haul” that arrived on my doorstep today. Using a special $10 coupon code, I paid $25 for seven books. Two of them will likely be reviewed on this blog: Letters From the Closet by Amy Hollingsworth, and Personal Notes by Sandra E. Lamb. One is a memoir, Naked on God’s Doorstep, and the other four would be considered inspirational and spiritual. Looking at the various titles one could get a clue about what my next research project might entail: The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski, Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher by Chad Norris, Miraculous: A Fascinating History of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles, by Kevin Belmonte, and Touching Heaven: Real Stories of Children, Life, and Eternity, by Leanne Hadley. The latter was purchased with the intent of sharing with my daughter Elizabeth, who lost a son two years ago. And yes, as soon as I have one book completed, and after a period of rest and some distinct angst, I do ponder what my next book will be, because that is the way I am. I am happiest when writing and speaking, or at the very least, thinking about a writing project!

book haul 002This box of books would hardly excite my daughter Rachel (not her type of reading) but I can’t wait to dig in! Stay tuned for more reviews in the days to come~

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