Book Buying Habit Refuses to Diminish

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“If, for example, we consider books as medicine, we understand that it is good to have many at home rather than a few: when you want to feel better, then you go to the ‘medicine closet’ and choose a book. Not a random one, but the right book for that moment. That’s why you should always have a nutrition choice!”

— Umberto Eco

 My medicine/book closet, as Italian historian and philosopher Umberto Eco charmingly called it, is mighty close to full. The only solution, of course, is to build more bookshelves — more space for additional medicine to cure what ails me. Or at least to help alleviate the symptoms, which are vague but persistent: ennui, occasional despair after reading the news, a need to escape the “real” world, if only for a few hours, a lifelong desire to learn more, to satisfy my curiosity albeit temporarily. It does not matter if what I am learning is particularly useful. At my age, I am not really sure what that even means anymore — or if it matters.

In the past week, I have visited several of my favorite bookstores. I picked up a couple of novels on special order from Books and Barrels in downtown Longview, whose owner is kind enough to sell my books, including the latest: The Loblolly Chronicles: A Memoir of Sorts. Folks here in my hometown are urged to stop by and buy a copy and support a locally owned bookstore fighting for survival in a tough business. Or buy any book that strikes your fancy. It certainly does not have to be mine.

Last weekend, we visited daughter Abbie and her fiancé, Brady, in Denton and made the requisite stop at Recycled Books on the square. We brought our nephew Connor for a belated 19th birthday celebration. A fellow bibliophile, Connor snared a couple of thick novels to help while away the impending summer.

Spread out over three stories in the historical Wright Opera House, Recycled Books is in a rambling building —  a garish pink and purple on the exterior — offers up a half-million books as well as a large selection of used albums, CDs and movies. Recycled Books is the largest independent used bookstore in Texas. Its clientele is as eclectic as the store’s inventory, which is an added benefit of visiting. I never leave that store empty-handed, though that is generally the case with all bookstores whose doors I darken. On this trip, three novels came home to join the to-read stack. More medicine.

A few days ago I headed south to Nacogdoches, to drop books off at The Bosslight bookstore off the red-brick streets downtown. Owner Tim Bryant has kindly agreed to host a book signing at his store on the square all day Saturday during the Texas Blueberry Festival. Come on by if you’re in the neighborhood. The Bosslight is an eclectic store well worth a visit.

My love of bookstores began in high school in Longview, visiting the Golden Hour bookstore, which eventually became Barron’s East Texas and is still a city institution, still family owned. Founding owners Jim and Julia Barron, whom I met in high school, unknowingly inspired me to find a partner and start a bookstore my first full semester at SFA in Nacogdoches.

I was 19 in the fall of 1974 and financed my half of the bookstore’s meager starting capital by selling a 1965 (I think) VW bus I had amateurishly restored. We lasted about 18 months before running out of money and energy. I was going to SFA full-time, working at Bonanza steak restaurant about 30 hours a week and spent the rest of my time at the bookstore, which we eventually expanded to include albums. Even a half-century ago, bookstore owners had to pivot and sell whatever they could to subsidize selling books.

As a result, I got the romantic notion of running a bookstore out of my system at a young age and could move on to other ill-considered endeavors such as buying a weekly newspaper in  Deep East Texas in my late 20s. Owning my own newspaper was also a dream, once fulfilled best left to those with more resources. I was blessed to spend the next three decades working for newspapers, drawing a paycheck and having a wonderful time.

And buying books every chance I got. That has not changed.

Come by The Bosslight in downtown Nacogdoches from 8 a.m. to mid-afternoon Saturday if you’re interested in buying a signed copy of my latest offering: The Loblolly Chronicles: A Memoir of Sorts. If you can’t make it, orders are available online here: https://garyborders.com/pages/books/loblolly-chronicles-memoir/.





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