I was the nerd in the Metro last Friday night. No one could take the seat next to me save for the nine latest additions to my book collection, which were nestled neatly in a box intended for Xerox paper. (Appropriate, I thought.)
My latest D.C. bookscapade was to the annual Stone Ridge Used Book Sale which promised “14 miles of books for readers and collectors” and the knowledge that your bibliophilia can help others: all proceeds from the sale benefit Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart’s scholarship fund. I honestly have no memory of learning about the sale, but you know how it is – somehow we bibliomaniacs can sniff out booksales with no real effort.
After work, I made the relatively short trek to the sale. It was about a six minute walk from the Medical Center Metro stop in Bethesda, but as I walked all I could think was, I’m going downhill. This logically meant that I would be walking entirely uphill with the burden of books on my return.
I finally strolled onto the school’s well-manicured campus, not really sure what to expect. Since Stone Ridge is a Catholic school, part of me wondered whether the sale would be primarily religious books, kids books, and politically correct trade paperbacks. Although those were among the most prominent genres of books, thankfully that was not all the 14 miles had to offer. Three large rooms of card tables covered in books organized (sort of) by topic greeted me. Art, Philosophy, Religion, Children, Trade, and Math were some of the more predominant collections, but I made a beeline straight for the poetry and adult fiction sections. (I worried at first that “adult fiction” might have a more scandalous meaning, but thankfully it didn’t. It is a religious school, after all.)
Nestled in the mounds of vintage hardbacks and modern paperbacks, I found several copies of Anne Sexton’s biography and a variety women’s history books. My pile of twenty-five “gems” became unmanageable to carry, so I took the advice of the bibliophile plundering the stacks next to me and began using an empty box as a basket.
Right before checkout came the hardest part of the night: deciding which of my spoils were best loved. I wish I could have carried everything home, but given my considerable walk, commute via two metros and bus, and the prospect of rain, I had to part with a few. I ended up with 9 books: a beautiful 1960s hardcover copy of the complete poems of Emily Dickinson, The Collected Stories of Colette, The Best Detective Stories of the Year 1950, Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World, Anne Sexton: A Biography, a 1930s hardcover copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray, an illustrated vintage copy of Alice in Wonderland, a classics club edition of Rubaiyat, and a 1950s hardcover, illustrated edition of Emma. I’d say the latter was my greatest purchase of the day, although choosing the best of your book spoils is (to me, anyway) like choosing your favorite child.
Next came the hard part: my journey home. When I was a kid reading about knights and pirates and pillagers, one of my biggest questions was how did they carry their loot home? I wish I knew the answer, as it would’ve made my trek easier. As I struggled to heft my heavy box of hardbacks back to the Metro, it started to drizzle. My day’s purchases, like all used books I accumulate that are likely survivors of many worse things, must not be damaged on my watch. So I sacrificed my own comfort and protected them with my rain jacket.
Times like that I have to acknowledge that owning a car would be helpful (think of all the additional books I would have been able to purchase!), but my stubbornness prevails. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be that nerd on the Metro on a Friday night holding two books and trying to decide which one to start first? Especially that nerd who’s also got a Xerox box full of books taking the accompanying seat?