L is for Library Book Sale

We have at least 3 copies of Grandfather Stories by Samuel Hopkins Adams — thanks to the library book sale.

For years and years, the Cooperstown Village Library has held their annual book sale over 4th of July weekend. Their large porch would be filled with tables covered with books, with boxes of books waiting underneath. That abundance of books overflowed onto the lawn where tents were erected under which stood more tables of books. The tents overflowed into a few boxes by the sidewalk labeled “Free.”

I love the library book sale. I still go every year, even though it’s now much smaller. I haven’t taken my father the past few years, partly because of mobility. The sale has been moved to the side of the building and is all in tents. By losing the sprawl and setting it on a slope, it’s harder to navigate with a walker.

We used to make it an annual thing though — the two of us waiting for the sale to open so we could be among the first to find the treasures there. I can think of few things more fun than poking around in piles and boxes of old books.

A few months ago, he was looking at all the bookshelves in the back room. “Where did all these books come from?” he asked.

“You bought them,” I said.

“I did?” He seemed surprised. “Well, I have good taste,” he said.

He tended to head toward the history section to find books on the Civil War, and then to the sports sections to find books on baseball.

Local history was always of interest to him. One year, I found a copy of an older book about the Loomis Gang, an outlaw gang in central New York, and showed it to him. He rejoiced, like I had just handed him a winning lottery ticket. Another year I found an obscure Walter Edmonds book that made him happy.

One year, he found a 1896 book called Max and Maurice: A Juvenile History in Seven Tricks by William Busch. Max and Maurice were the first names of my grandfather and his identical twin brother. Fortunately, the book was not about them. The story, all in rhyme, told of two boys who played horrible pranks on the people in their small town. In the end, they were ground up in a grist mill and eaten by ducks.

A gory story — but not a Gorey story. My brother buys those.

It’s not the same going to the library book sale without my father, but the books we already own are more than enough to keep him occupied.

In recent years he has read Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall at least three times, and probably from three different copies of the book, all thanks to the library book sale.

When he would find a favorite book, I watched him show it to the people around him. When none of them would take it, he would go ahead and buy it himself. I’m pretty sure he bought back some of his own donated books.

He couldn’t leave an old friend on the table.


First Sunday of Advent 2017

I peeked at the first page of The New Christian Year (compiled by Charles Williams) one last time before putting it on the shelf.

My well-worn copy is even more well-worn now that I’ve been through the book several times. The New Christian Year isn’t so new anymore. My copy is from 1941 — and it was written in but not falling apart when I got it. I picked it up at a used bookstore, not knowing what a dear friend it would become. It’s falling apart now, like a Velveteen Rabbit of books.

Charles Williams introduced me to so many Christian thinkers — St. Augustine, John Donne, Lancelot Andrewes, William Law, and Blaise Pascal to name a few.  The New Christian Year helped me fill my bookshelves with deep, rich books.

But, when I read Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance earlier this year, I knew I was reading a modern author who would challenge me to change my life and deepen my faith. I ordered Gift and Task as soon as I finished the Sabbath book.

When it arrived, I set it aside. I would have to wait for Advent, the start of the Christian year.

My brand new copy of Walter Brueggemann’s Gift and Task beckoned me this morning.

All those pages so new and clean.

Oh — to write in the margins!

Brueggemann starts the Christian year not with light and hope, but with a roar.

…Advent is “in like a lion,” a roaring truthfulness that disrupts our every illusion…

…Christmas is not a safe, private, or even familial enterprise but is preoccupied with great public issues of war and peace and issues of economic justice that concern the worth and bodily well-being of human persons. Our Advent preparation may invite us to consider the ways in which we ourselves are complicit in the deep inhumanity of our current world.

Not what I was expecting at all.

Indeed, for me, Advent roared in like a lion, but Brueggemann concluded today with these words –

The lion opens space for the Lamb, who will arrive soon.

I hope I’m ready for this new Christian year.




A Facebook friend has been asking a “Question of the Day.” Yesterday, he asked this:

Who is your “I’ve never met you and likely never will” mentor?

I realize more and more how much of a mentor my mother was for me. She was, above all the other things, a caregiver. Obviously I’ve met her, though. I just didn’t appreciate her enough in that role.

The thing is — a caregiver’s mentor is never going to be in any spotlight.

She’s going to be home, quietly doing mundane tasks.

She’ll find her strength and solace in an abiding relationship with God.

She’ll be able to count on one hand her closest friends, but will still have a wider circle of loved ones, people she cares deeply about and who care deeply about her.

However, most people won’t even be aware of half of what she does.


The other day, at Cooperstown’s Antiquarian Book Fair, I found a treasure that comes close to finding my mentor.

I found a Book of Common Prayer with a name imprinted on the front: Rachel Ware Fuller.

Inside, the inscription told me that the book had been a gift from her son.

And then, there were pages and pages of handwritten notes.

I thought I had found the treasure I’ve been searching — a mother’s spiritual summation, all the things she has learned through parenting and wifing and friending and living. This would have been the mentor I never met and never will.

However, further inspection showed the notes to be from a Samuel Clark Harbinson, an Episcopal rector at a New England church. I’m not sure how the book was transferred from Rachel Fuller to him, but it was. Another inscription revealed that.

His notes are fascinating. And challenging. And thought-provoking.

Someday though, I hope to find a well-worn book with the margins and flyleaves full of notes written by a caregiver. I want it to have a coffee spill on a page or two, and ink smeared by tears on many pages.

And notes. Lots of notes.

I’ve already started accumulating a collection of other people’s journals and some religious books with notes in the margins.

But I’ll keep looking, at book sales, and in book boxes, for this Holy Grail of books.

That’s where I’ll find my mentor.