Peripatetics

Old_books_fresh_eggs If anyone else has been as tempted as I have over the past week to close out the 401k, give notice, put the keys in the mailbox, and generally throw up your hands and skip town, be advised that it is possible to do so gracefully. Just make sure you have enough book boxes—it took Lynda "Mad Dog" German and Polly "The Pilgrim" Hinds 1,200 of them and 20 trips in a rental truck. But they managed to move their used bookstore from urban Denver to the outback of Wyoming, 40 miles from the nearest gas station, and it's become a destination of sorts: "'People who like books will find you,' Lynda explained."

The result is simply one of the country’s best used bookshops, specializing, according to Pilgrim and Mad Dog, in "fine, out-of-print and antiquarian books with an emphasis on unusual titles in military history, Western Americana, technical books, foreign languages, children’s literature, and old fiction."

They also have an eclectic antique collection and raise chickens and sheep, with overprotective llamas guarding the flock. Book buyers come from everywhere—as far away as Africa—and they do a brisk mail business.

But other than the simple sign on the edge of the highway, the two booksellers do not advertise.

"If you want to know where we are," said Polly, "you’ll find us. I don’t advertise because if I had $100, I’d buy books."

They have isolation and marauding moose to contend with, and I'm sure a host of other issues, but from this cranky corner of the city that looks like a pretty idyllic place to land. (via Book Patrol)

Runner On the other hand, if you're looking for a more urban itinerant bookish experience, you could always quit the day job and become a book runner. This seems to be more of a British phenomenon—we have street vendors in New York, for instance, but they are decidedly not of the antiquarian or high end variety.

The American equivalent of a runner is a "scout" but they are subtly different. A 'scout' often searches for books for his own stock, whereas the runner almost exclusively sells to other dealers. Ideally he will have very little stock, often just the books that he could not sell (i.e. his mistakes.) There are one or two women, more in America, but it is mostly a male lifestyle. In general their lives go unrecorded; a few pop up in bookselling memoirs.

But that only means the field is wide open for the right entrepreneur. I rather like the idea of making the rounds with a suitcase of rare and musty books, buying and selling as I went, catching a cup of coffee or an afternoon drink with the dealers. I know I have the suitcase, and I'm pretty sure there must be a beret around here somewhere.

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10 Comments to Peripatetics

  1. Kat Warren's Gravatar Kat Warren
    November 22, 2009 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Road trip!

  2. November 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Larry McMurtry (Books) would’ve included this in his book.

  3. Sean Long's Gravatar Sean Long
    November 23, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Old Books and Fresh Eggs For Sale, Book Runners, Book Scouts…Just a few of the reasons why I will never own a Kindle.

  4. November 23, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    You and me both, buddy.

  5. Karen Wall's Gravatar Karen Wall
    November 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Some years back I heard a guy interviewed on NPR who made a project of going to all the major league ballparks in the U.S with his wife, he then wrote a book about it. Kat’s ‘road trip’ comment made me think this would be a fun project for someone, best eclectic bookstores in America or something.

  6. November 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    “One of her proudest book purchases was an outstanding metaphysics collection from the estate of a postmistress of Lysite, Wyoming.” — There’s certainly a story behind that.
    “I’ve bought books from people at bus stops,” said Polly. — This is great!

  7. November 23, 2009 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    So there’s a question: How much would it take for you to sell the book you’re reading to some stranger at a bus stop?

  8. Sean Long's Gravatar Sean Long
    November 24, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Hmmm, depends on the book, Debi.
    About 15 years ago Kevin McCarthy at UF wrote “The Book Lover’s Guide to Florida Bookstores.” A few of us made a weekend road trip using his book as a guide. We started in Orlando, went south to Tampa/St. Pete, made our way up the west coast then ventured over Crystal River where we camped for the night, and then on to Micanopy and Gainesville the next day. One of the best road trips I’ve ever taken.

  9. nbm's Gravatar nbm
    November 25, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Debi, I just read that Sonya from the People Reading blog bought Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided (which she had to read for book group) from the man next to her on an airplane.

  10. nbm's Gravatar nbm
    November 25, 2009 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Oh, sorry, meant to say she gave him ten bucks.

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