Could Waverly be Baltimore’s best neighborhood for bookstore shopping? If it’s not at the top of the list, it’s close. How we spent our Saturday here at the Baltimore Book Blog is a perfect example.
Our good friend Jenn was in town for a visit, so we saddled up the stroller and met her for lunch at the One World Cafe in Tuscany-Canterbury (also, coincidentally, the business that catered our wedding reception eight years ago).
After lunch, we headed to Waverly and the Book Thing of Baltimore, Inc. Aunt Jenn brought two huge bags of used books to donate. Charlotte made out like the proverbial bandit at lunch, scoring a bunch of Jenn’s children’s books for her library. Charlotte’s haul included Bear Wants More, a sequel in the awesome series by Karma Wilson, author of Bear Snores On; and Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth, which we just read tonight before bed. Aunt Jenn donated her other books to the Book Thing’s sizeable collection, and we all went a-hunting for free books in the stacks.
While the “Recommended by Russell” section is the best place to go looking for more recent titles, I love the Book Thing for its assemblage of dated material: a 2001 travel guide to Europe, old Time-Life reference series, no-longer-used textbooks. During my first trip to the Book Thing two years ago, I came home with a copy of A People and a Nation, the phone book-sized history textbook that I used and secretly loved in high school. I appreciate paperlessness as much as the next person, but there’s a historicity that goes missing in the age of constantly-updated electronic versions of travel guides, course catalogs, and the like. I might like to know, for instance, what travel writers considered the hottest tourist destinations in Finland in 1998. Also in the stacks at the Book Thing, you can trace trends in nonfiction writing. On this particular visit, I saw a lot of presidential biographies from the past decade or so about the Founding Fathers alongside weathered volumes about the Nixon presidency (and I scored a copy of All the President’s Men, which I’ve been wanting to read since we Netflixed the movie over the summer). Then there are the even-older biographies of historical figures who have long since fallen out of fashion and name recognition (Prosper Merimee, John C. Calhoun, etc.).
No excursion to Waverly is complete without a stop at Normals. After paging through the alternative mags at the front of the store, I found a near-mint paperback of Toni Morrison’s novel Love for the bargain-basement price of 4 bucks. For the same price, John bought Lawrence Wechsler’s Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders in honor of his affection for the Chamber of Wonders exhibit at the Walters Art Museum.
We headed off into the early autumn afternoon as Charlotte blinked awake from her nap, our bags heavy with books but our wallet barely feeling the effects. It was a good day.