Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Passion for Books: An Encounter on Etsy

Books have always been a special love. I was a reader from the moment I grasped "Run, Spot, run!"

As I grew up, books were given to me for birthdays and Christmas because my family and friends knew I loved to read. Once I was out of college, married and living on a budget, I started buying books at sales, a practice that continues to this day. I always look forward to that final day "bag sale," where you can stuff in as many as you can for a few dollars!

Consequently, I have a lot of books. In fact, there's not enough space to display them all. Many I'll never read again. It's nice to have them, though--books are like old friends, really, and give one, at least me, a cozy feeling just looking at their covers there in the bookshelves. But downsizing has become a new passion (you'd laugh at that statement if you saw my house: "she thinks she's downsizing?").

So when I opened my Etsy shop a few years ago, I started selling vintage books. I've sold fiction for both adults and children, as well as books on gardening, history, crafts, nature, antiques, cooking, photography, and even books as "book decor"--i.e. books in sets of colors that people put in their bookshelves for a "look" (sometimes they're used in photo shoots or for television and film set decoration).
Old Reader's Digest books are also sought after by certain people, mostly those who take the covers and turn them into purses, like this, which can be found at SmartDesigning on Etsy:
Any time I'm at a yard sale or church sale or thrift shop and find vintage Reader's Digest books, I buy them and group them into lots for sale, like this:
But I digress. What this post is about today is a particular buyer who first bought this book from me:
It was a lovely first edition book published in 1914, and the buyer wrote that she was so happy to have found it. She said it would be "a great addition to my kids' library." Not long afterwards, when I put up a bunch of other books including a beautifully illustrated series of "My Bookhouse" books, she returned to my shop and bought them, along with a Shakespeare book by Charles and Mary Lamb:
By this time we were writing back and forth to each other, and at one point I asked how many children she had. She replied that she didn't have any children of her own, although she hoped she would some day. "I teach Cherokee at an immersion school," she said, and "I like to take in old books with beautiful pictures, so that the kids can see the pictures while I read the stories and translate them into Cherokee." Her teaching assignment was first through third grade science and social studies, and  she had six to nine children per class. "I call them my babies, even though they aren't biologically."

One of the wonderful things about selling on Etsy is that often, in conversing back and forth, sellers and buyers become friends. I learned more about my new book-loving friend, who wrote me that because she was looking forward to having children "I collect books the way some women collect toys or clothes. I was an English Lit major before I went into linguistics, and I was the kind of kid that always had at least two books in arm's reach. My dad and I were the only bookworms in the family, so he'd take me to the bookstore as a special daddy-daughter date. I still have most of my childhood books on a shelf just waiting to be read again (and, if truth be told, I still read them myself, especially the Louisa May Alcott ones--I went through at least 4 copies of Little Women, because I read it so much!). I love old books, and the sweet illustrations in them. I want my kids to love and respect books as much as I do."

This young woman's passion for books is inspiring. If all teachers were as committed to the beauty and value of good literature, I have no doubt that our world would be a better place.


  1. Thanks for a great illustration of the meaningful connections we can make through the vintage marketplace.

    1. You're very welcome! And by the way, I love your blog :)

  2. What a charming story, and lovely blog post!

    1. Many thanks, Mom Wald--so glad you enjoyed it!