|“The great objection to new books is that they prevent our reading old ones.”|
|– Joseph Joubert|
So ran my thoughts this week while browsing the aisles at Zephyr Books, a nearby used book store in Reno, Nevada. I have no ax to bear against any new book-seller – be it a large store with the newest best-sellers or a small independent bookstore with its ability to tap into the local readers’ interests. But I am so grateful that this third platform exists – that of the used book merchant whose stock and trade is providing an avenue into vintage books – still good, still reliable, still pertinent – but perhaps the publisher no longer stocks or prints those books or the books don’t enjoy the 2012 critics circle awards or a big push by literary publicists. The Barnes and Nobles of the world have limited space and want to market to the masses – what was hot two years ago, needs to go, go go to make room for the latest celebrity exercise craze or Part #215 of Janet Evanovich’s Plum series.
In weaving the aisles of Zephyr’s organized shelves I marveled the copious categories of books and felt reassured that these volumes have a loving temporary home organized and upright in rough alpha order rather being put in someone’s shed or being thrown in a landfill. For these authors – every one of them – still have a story to tell or information to impart beyond the suggested “Buy Before” or presumed “Best-by” date that is arbitrarily assigned by the New-to-You stores.
Not bound to be classics, like Jane Eyre or Catcher in the Rye, the books here are the magnum opus of another order – the literary Rembrandts of the 1990s or the niche books about geography or painting or Chinese politics that just never hit the stock shelves of the Wal-Mart that are well researched, polished and ready for your — and my — bookshelves.
The staff is friendly and willing to chat it up with you and they have a fun coffee bar to boot.
My Saturday sojourn companion was daughter Marjorie – 12 years old and brimming with Book Love/Lust – just like her Mama. Her quest was to gather books for a “new” bookshelf (more on that later) in one of six genres. “I need a book on Russia, Mom, or something from the 1920s” – such is her eclectic quest for knowledge. We walked out with a WWII book, a mystery and a realistic fiction.
But before our spree was over, we spotted three special books nestled in the Nevada section authored by my dad – her granddad. Yes, of course we have them at home, treasured for all time, but to see dad’s tomes displayed knowing that they are waiting for a special owner to purchase them, read and cherish them, did my heart good. A professional journalist, Dad had wonderful stories to share: “Sonny Boy” is an autobiography; “Nevadans” and “101 Nevada Columns” are a “Best Of” selection of his columns from the Reno Gazette-Journal where he (Rollan Melton) wrote from 1984 to 2002. His books never made national headlines or garnered reviews in the Times, but he imparted good news about our neighbors, neighborhoods and our state. Without this used book outlet – this dealer in our yesterday texts — Rollie’s fundamental stories and talents would be relegated to a pulp mill. With it, readers and writers can find a new friend.