Selling books is the best. The greatest. So much fun. But you know what is even bester, greatester and funner? Buying books. My favorite feeling in the world (one of my favorites, have you noticed I love hyperbole?) is having a van load of books from a great house call and then bringing in the books box by box to price and shelve them.
Why is it my favoritest thing? Because I am learning so much! A good collection of books is a fine work of art that has been composed over decades (sometimes centuries). (Do you also notice that I love parenthesis?) And I get to handle it, learn from it, read it, make a living from it. I feel that each good book I handle leaves a residue of knowledge and beauty within me. Even if I just read the book jacket, or a page or two.
For example – Plotinus! I knew the name Plotinus, but then I bought a book collection from some guy in South Boston who had wanted to become a minister but had given it up, and he had the book “The Essential Plotinus.” I didn't think much of the book because anything deemed 'essential' usually turns out not to be (in the preface the translator, who is also known to me, Elmer O'Brien—a great man) talks about how he was made to put 'Essential' in the title by the publisher and he wrote, “Who would dare pretend that he had attained, especially within so small a compass as this brief book, to the essence of any man, much less of that most enigmatic of men, Plotinus?”
The book is published by a minor scholarly press, Hackett. So, I didn't like the title or the publisher – (and dashes, who could write without a boatload of them?) but the translator redeemed the title, but then to process it I read the first page. WHOA!! How did I ever live without this noble Greek/Roman! And this (wonder, thankfulness for the richness of the book world) has happened before with the Classics (Greek and Roman writers). I remember reading the Roman poet Lucretius and all of modern poetry was swept into a corner of childishness (but then I thought some more, and I love a lot of modern poetry.) But Plotinus! Dip into any paragraph—wisdom, clarity, sensitivity to life. Ooooh.
And this happens so often with the good books I process – happiness, enlightenment. And I always wonder about the people who have accumulated these great book collections. How did they know so many good books? But then I think the more you read good books the more you develop a “fingerspitzengefuhl” (a great German word) or intuition for what is good, and in some families that is passed down (probably because there are good books hanging around) and then the collection comes to me and I revel in it. And then it comes to you.
And do buy all the great books in my store, but as importantly, if you have a good collection of books or know of one, please sell them to me.