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March 31, 2016

Spring & Summer Reading Steals at Goodwill

With the arrival of spring comes an increase in outdoor activities. The air in our neighborhood has already offered up a whiff or two of a backyard cookout, the “What beautiful weather!” posts are starting to appear all over Facebook, (though to be fair, there were poolside family photos and beachwear selfies throughout the extended late summer we called “winter” this year) and the time feels right to start thinking about spending a little time outside with a good book.

If you’re a book lover and collector like I am, you’re probably not thrilled at the idea of suntan lotion or drippy ice cream cones anywhere near that nice new hardback that just set you back the price of a couple of decent steaks and a bottle of wine.

It simply isn’t in my mindset to refer to any book as “disposable”, and I am proud that my personal library is filled with everything from signed first-editions to tattered shiny-cover grocery store paperbacks, but let’s be honest; I’m not going to have an anxiety attack if the fifteen-year-old reprint of The World According To Garp with a few pencil marks on the inside cover and eight dog-eared pages gets sand in the binding or a barbecue sauce stain on page fifteen.

Remember the steaks and wine comparison? We’re now talking the price of a canned soft drink and pack of gum. Again, I would never condone the mistreatment of books, but taking one to the lake, beach, or pretty much any outdoor event involving food guarantees a certain level of danger best reserved for very inexpensive reads.

Well, friends, that’s where Goodwill can help! Each Goodwill location has a book section, and for those inclined to treasure hunt, there are some nuggets of joy to be found.

A word of warning before you embark: your quest will require patience. Many of these books have been donated because they were so godawfully bad, their previous owners couldn’t finish them and wanted no reminder of such literary tragedy around the house.

Others will have very specific titles, such as Midwestern Gardening For Klezmer Enthusiasts or Helper Joe’s Fixit Series, Volume Seventeen: Grout Refurbishment And Commercial Adhesive Checklist. And there’s John Grisham. There always seem to be multiple copies of pretty much anything he wrote before the late ‘90s, so be prepared for The Pelican Brief and The Firm to scroll past like the background in an episode of The Flintstones as you peruse the shelves.

That said, here’s what the grand total of $4.75 will bring those who are patient…


I first struck gold with what I see primarily as a collectible, but will no doubt read some rainy Saturday afternoon, just for fun. Murray Leinster’s Time Tunnel isn’t likely to be on too many lists of great literature, but it spoke to my love of all things ‘60s pop culture. The cover art alone was worth more than the dollar I paid for the book, but the description on the back clinched it:


“One end was in 1964 – the other in 1804.” A written-for-kitsch time-travel thriller connecting the Napoleonic era with the year Gilligan’s Island premiered? Sign me up!

My second find was a twelve-year-old copy of one of my favorite of the Best American series, The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Each year, a collection of outstanding essays, rants, musings, and short stories gets published under this banner, and this is one of the years I happened to miss. Score!

By this point, I figured I had found all the treasures for the day, but a slender blue spine caught my eye. At first I thought it may have been a Samuel French script, possibly with one of the characters’ lines underlined from a long-ago production of some light classic or other. Instead, I discovered…


I’ll leave my wife to answer how useful it was.