Day 11 of the #PNIWritingChallenge asks a simple enough question.
Do you own any non-fiction books that you have not yet read beyond the first page?
I do not. End post …
PSYCHE! After yesterday’s short post you didn’t honestly believe I would write up another minimalist one, did you? Sheesh, it’s like you people don’t know me at all!
In 2002 we were riding the bubble of Internet book sales. We used half.com, eBay, amazon, and a few other sites you may not know.
It was a family affair. My bad-ass/kick ass Gramma had (and still has) a basement full of books for sale. I had a basement full in my home, and my mother had the same. This is when we were still in the Kalamazoo area. Lord knows how many books we had available between the three of us. Easily over 40,000 by the end of it all.
At one point my mother retired from her official job and decided to sell books full time for a year to see how that went. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. Unfortunately that was about the time everyone and their brother was getting involved in it.
She moved to Tucson for a bit, and then went back to Michigan. She got an awesome job in Saginaw and moved there. All of her books went with her.
The home she bought in Saginaw is older, an antique, one the Historical Society was very interested in. It was built in 1856 as a brewery, so it wasn’t designed as a house but effectively was one.
The vats for brewing the beer were in the basement. Right next to the converted coal burner that is used to heat that home still. Yes, converted coal burner. There were little doors that opened from near the driveway to the basement so that coal deliveries could go where they needed. When the furnace was converted to gas it began running at approximately -45%.
That’s a bit of an overstatement, but whatever. The utility bills are/were insane.
My mother designed and built her own shelves and voila! 15,000 hard cover and paperback books had found their temporary home in the new basement.
The main floor had an office, and the usual kitchen, dining room, bedroom set ups. There was a butler’s pantry! So cool. It was where the dishes were stored so that back in the day when the servants were serving the meal, everything was in one convenient place.
The butler’s pantry had been shortened when they added indoor plumbing. You didn’t think a house built in 1856 had indoor plumbing already, did you? And electricity … that was added eventually as well. It made the area a little claustrophobic but it worked.
My mom, being the smart woman she is, used the butler’s pantry for laundry. It had gas and water hookups so it seemed like the perfect spot. And it was.
The second floor is another interesting spot. There were two sections to it. The first part being the master bedroom. The master took up half of the house. There was a seating type room and a walk-in closet. Then there was an alcove where the actual bed went. That part was large enough that my mom could have had all of her possessions there and the seating area part would have been empty.
I’m saying this house was huge, y’all.
There was another bedroom on the inner wall of the master, and we used that as another book storage area. Instead of replacing some seriously awful wallpaper, my mother covered it with shelves she, once again, designed and built herself. Well, okay, I helped, but she did most of it. We used it as our personal lending library as there were another 10-15,000 paperback books lining those walls.
I discovered some of my favorite authors in this time period, including Vince Flynn and Stephen White and the parental Kellermans (not their kid, not my cup of tea).
In 2005 my inventory had been blended with my mother’s. Books as far as the eye could see! I have nightmares to this day of books collapsing on me and leaving me trapped. It never happened, thank goodness.
Around 2013 it was obvious the bubble had burst on the book sales thing. We weren’t making enough money for the effort to be worth it. We contacted some sellers we had met across state and offered them a killer deal that they took.
We sold the entire lot for cash. The people that bought the inventory had to come with a semi-truck to take them all to their warehouse. By my calculations, there were easily 30,000 books that had to be transported across state.
By my calculations, and if they sold all of them, the people made more than 10x what they had invested. So here’s hoping they sold them all.
I’m often asked what was my biggest sale in that time period. I had discovered a book at a garage sale that I bought for a quarter. Yes, a quarter.
It was The Canon of Judo. It had a hemp cover and was pretty neat. I listed it for $1300 initially and ended up selling it for $800. Not too shabby if you ask me. It’s still a rare book. I look it up every now and again so I can feel all special about myself. It was written by an American black belt … other than that I know nothing.
I’m not sure, but I think having that many books surrounding me for that chunk of my life has left me somewhat leery of buying physical books. Don’t get me wrong, my Kindle has plenty, but I don’t buy everything that catches my eye anymore.
The books that we were selling literally took over our lives for a decade. Every surface of all three houses, every shelf, every room had books on them. I love physical books, don’t get me wrong. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing my own, but my god do I not want to ever be surrounded like that again.
I strayed from the topic today, which is totally normal.
What rare books have you found? Are looking for? Just know about in general?