What do writers do to relax? This one looks for books to read. And although I love my Kindle, I'm still smitten by the feel and heft of books. Plus, there will always be a special place in my heart for previously owned books and the places that give them another chance to end up on someone's bookshelf.
The Book Thing* in Baltimore is one of those places. It's a dusty, dim bit of paradise for book lovers a short drive from my apartment that has taken in and redistributed books for over a decade. Nothing is shelved in any discernible order, which makes for some entertaining juxtapositions. Best of all, the books are free for the taking and schlepping.
Visitors may take as many books as they want. It's not unusual to see bibliophiles carrying out more than one carton piled high and overflowing with books. The last time I was there, I overheard one guy muttering, "My wife is going to kill me" as he staggered out under quite the haul. I generously offered to follow him home to help her. Like I should talk.
I've been known to bring home battered books like people bring home birds with broken wings, which is why I've been careful to limit my visits to The Book Thing. I've been there only three times since moving to Baltimore in 2010.
On my first trip, I dropped off three cartons of books and brought home nothing but a sinus headache.
The second time, I dropped off nothing and brought home two books, hardbound copies of A New Pentecost? by Cardinal Suenens and The Secular City by Harvey Cox.
This past Sunday I returned one book unread (The Secular City) and spent over an hour reading titles, occasionally pulling out a book to look at more closely. This generated a mash-up of emotions -- nostalgia while wandering through stacks of novels; less-than-pleasant feelings in the Sociology and Women's Studies sections upon seeing ditched copies of books I was assigned during graduate school and ones I assigned during my decade in academia.
I brought home six book, including Michael Korda's 530-page memoir of his time in the publishing industry, Another Life: A Memoir of Other People and a copy of the hymnal and service book, Worship that was probably pilfered from a parish.
Only six books! Remarkable restraint, I thought. Thank God The Book Thing is only open on weekends.
*The pictures on The Book Thing website do not accurately convey the dusty dimness of it all, nor the dizzying aroma of old books.