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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dream Fufillment

Whatever your hobby is you have a dream. A dream to find or do something rare and unique. If you collect records you want to find an original copy of the Rolling Stones from '64. If you are an art collector you would love to find a sketch by Caravaggio at a garage sale.

I love books, I love reading them and collecting them. When you are a book junkie you dream of finding an out of print, forgotten, literary gem at the back of a small bookstore in Chinatown. Since there is no Chinatown in Nashua, I get many of my used books from the used book bins at my local grocery store.

I live on the edge of a park and right across that park is a grocery store called Hannaford's Supermarket. At Hannaford's there are two book bins at the front of the store. One is for trade paperbacks and hardcover books and the other is for pocket-sized paperback books. Most of the time, you can depend on finding some bestsellers from the past five years along with the hits from years past. If you are into Grisham, Clancy, Roberts, Weiner, or Picoult you won't have a problem finding something to read over a weekend trip to the beach. If your tastes are more literary you can usually find something that will keep you happy, I've found a hardcover version of Midnight's Children, a couple Vonnegut novels. Hemingway and Maya Angelou make a regular appearance. If you shop the trade paperback and hardcover side you may also find a rare gem like a foreign version of a literary favorite or an author signed ARC.

The funny thing about the bins though is that they are multi-layered. The paperback side goes down four layers and the hardcover bin goes down three. As people take books the second layer is exposed but the donations keep coming in so the lower layers are repeatedly covered up so I was always left to wonder what  treasures of the literary past might be hidden at the bottom of the bin. Fortunately my friend Andy shared my curiosity so we planned a late night mission to find out what was at the bottom of the bins.

We arrived at Hannaford's supermarket at about 10:45 on a Saturday night. The store–a huge market with a sushi bar, deli, bakery, pharmacy and hot wing buffet– stays open until midnight every night. As we were driving to the store I we discussed how to best approach the feat of going through hundreds of books stacked in multiple layers. We decided the best way was to pile them into shopping carts and I contemplated whether we should alert one of the store staff that we were just looking to see what was there and not to run out the door with a shopping cart full of books. On the way in we grabbed a cart and went to work. Each of us took a stack of hardcovers and went through them but we soon realized that we would not both get to see the entire selection so we decided the most efficient way to go was to each take a stack and read the titles as we tossed them into the cart. After the hardcovers we did the same for the paperbacks. At one point we had  two carts full of paperback books.
Andy and the Books

We did find some great covers:

We also found about 15 copies of various Welcome to Tyler romance novels. What we didn't find is anything we really wanted to read. We also found the largest collection of book paper dust in the country on the fourth layer along with various scraps of paper that had fallen out of books over whatever time period has passed since anyone else had looked a the fourth layer, a period I assume can be measured in years.
This is the portal to literary purgatory.

I took home about 5 books from the hardcover bin and Andy went home empty handed. But at least if you're ever looking for the missing copy in your welcome to Tyler collection, you know who to call. Thanks for reading and tell me what lengths you would go to for your hobby in the comments.