A Love Story for Book Nerds – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)
For many years I frequented a used book store in Delavan, Wisconsin, with an awesome name – BIBLIOMANIACS! The store was situated on a picturesque street with a beautiful “old American” feel; a red brick street graced on both sides with old fashion street lamps each serving as host to a proudly waving American flag. I found remarkable treasures at Bibliomaniacs (that’s Book-Nerd speech for “awesome books”) throughout the years which still grace my bookshelves.
But there was one set of books adorning their shelves which eluded me for many years – President Woodrow Wilson’s gorgeous five-volume “History of the American People.” An original edition! (“Original Edition” is Book Nerd-Speech for “This is so awesome I’m going to cry, wet myself, or both – I must have it!”). Wilson wrote it when he was President of Princeton University.
I say the books eluded and teased me because I’m on a very tight budget and the set was a little pricey at $200.00. But there it remained for many years. Every time I’d visit Bibliomaniacs I’d head to the second-floor shelves (see circled spot in the interior photo below) to see if it was still there – Hello Old Friend! I’d open the volumes and smell the old paper, not just a quick whiff, but deep inhale, hold for 30-seconds, then exhale reverently (That’s Book-Nerd narcotics – old book smell). I began to wonder if I was the only person alive who recognized their worth. I visited that set for over five years, sniffing, reading, coveting it, and walking away sad I didn’t have more cash to my name. The set was like an old faithful friend waiting for my visit. (I know, I know, I’m a dork! I accept that).
One day I got terrible news – BIBLIOMANIACS was going out of business! I went into Book-Nerd mourning. At the time, I worked at Lake 961 Radio Station in Lake Geneva, which was about twenty minutes away from Bibliomaniacs. So on Saturday, July 20, 2013, after my “Saturday at the 70s” on-air shift, I went to BIBLIOMANIACS for their going out of business sale hoping to find one last treasure before my favorite haunt closed for good.
I parked on that brick street one last time, got out of my car with a sense of nostalgia, the American flags are waving in the wind. I step on the sidewalk and see the “Going Out Of Business” banner in the window screamed the end of an era. It was like I was losing a friend. Deep breath. Hold back the tears. Time for one last treasure hunt. Here we go!
I spent about an hour looking around. I didn’t find anything I wanted within my price range that I didn’t already have. Then it was time to visit my old friend one last time and say my final goodbyes. I knew that even at half-price, the Wilson set would still be too steep for me. So up I went to the second floor where my friend had resided for so many years. I opened volume one to repeat my sniffing and coveting ritual. At the top of the inside cover, I see $20.00 written in pencil. I said to myself, “Just as I thought, it went from 40 to 20-bucks per volume, still too steep.” I tenderly put the book back on the shelf realizing that this was the last time I would see this set, my old friend. I wondered who the more fortunate person would be who would ultimately give them a home, hoping they’d end up in the hands of someone who would appreciate their worth. I gave them one last look, “Bye-bye old friend!” I’m misty at this point – don’t judge me. If John Wayne can kiss Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo, I can get misty over a book!
I walked back down the stairs to talk to the woman who worked the counter for years. We chatted for a bit, and I thanked her for providing me with years of happy-book-hunting adventures, and I wished her success in her future endeavors. Then I told her my story about those Wilson books, and she replied, “I’m so sorry you misunderstood; those books are $20.00 TOTAL, not per-volume.”
I ran up those stairs with child-like excitement, carefully grabbed the books off the shelf, and said, “You’re moving in with me, Mr. President.” I hurried down the stairs and laid 22-bucks on the counter. She laughed hysterically, handed me over 90-cents change, and said I made
I said my final goodbyes to my benefactor, walked out with the books in a box, laid them on the passenger seat, and then drove home with my treasure. I laid them lovingly on my shelf and there they are to this day, three feet from where I type. I put him next to Teddy Roosevelt for
I love happy endings. Don’t you?