Books and readers age, words never get old – Florida Times-Union

BRUNSWICK, GA. | I don’t think anyone makes a candle that has the distinctive smell of a bookstore.

It’s sort of like that prized new car smell. I once broke the news to a woman that her new $100,000-plus Tesla smelled just like a new Ford.


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New books can be expensive, but, like cars, they lose value once they’re sold. Some things regain value with age such as a first edition “Gone With the Wind” or a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air.

The Friends of the Brunswick-Glynn County Library have an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 used books for sale through Saturday. The words are the same from the first capital letter on Page 1 to the final period on the last. All that’s missing is the smell of new, and there may be some extras such as pages antiqued by spilled tea, a chocolate thumbprint or, in sad books, tears that dried to invisibility.

Friends volunteers were resorting the books Tuesday. Why a suspense writer was thrown in with the mysteries was itself a mystery.

Martha Martin and Diane Hughes, co-chairs of the sale, and former school librarian Monica Moreau were appraising the offerings. All three are avowed book people who like to turn paper pages in good light with no distractions.

“There are people out there who still prefer a book book,” Hughes said.

She is one of those, she said, “although when I went to Australia there was a question of whether I wanted to take 50 pounds of clothes or 50 pounds of books.”

She took the clothes and had thousands of pounds of books on call at her fingertips on a Nook, Barnes and Noble’s electronic reader.

“Do you know we have the complete Kahlil Gibran?” Martin asked Hughes.

Years ago no hippie, write-your-own-vows wedding was complete without a reading from Gibran.

They have bookshelf-sagging sets of encyclopedias for sale for those who don’t trust Google.

Moreau is a walking encyclopedia on the subject of books. She wore her favorite T-shirt from The Travelers Restaurant in Union, Conn. You can read while you eat among the shelves and take a book free.

It used to be, you could fill tables with “The Da Vinci Code” usually donated by people who only keep good books. They started the sale with three copies, but with stacks of Danielle Steel. They’re in the 50 cents collection.

The three women say the best authors nowadays write mysteries, but they have their standards: There has to be a dead body in the first chapter, and it all has to be explained tidily at the end.

The wonder is not that the Friends have thousands and thousands of books. It’s that people wrote those books with pen or pencil, on clattering typewriters and by processing words on a screen, arranging millions of vowels and consonants to form the names of people who never were and places that aren’t.

You wonder how Mark Twain decided on the name Huckleberry Finn for the greatest novel ever written and why Cormac McCarthy kills so many people that he makes the average mystery writer seem like a children’s author. It’s easy to figure how former Mississippi riverboat pilot Samuel Clemens named himself Mark Twain.

Not all books are created equal, but buy a few bad volumes at a used book sale and you can still afford to make the car payment. Maybe it’s like when one of my World War II heroes, the late Jack Parker, remarked on these Terry Dickson columns, which he professed to like, generally.

“But you know,” he said. “Some are better than others.”

He was too kind to say some are bad and some are worse.

Books can do a lot for you. Moreau, who’s from Newburgh, N.Y., never worked in a big public library. She worked in an elementary school library helping kids find wonder on the pages that come alive when they are are opened in the light.

“That’s the best job in the whole world. I was 12 years old my whole life,” she said.

You don’t get that from reading “The Da Vinci Code.”

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com; (912) 264-0405

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