Book Fair Blog | Newberry

Book Fair Blog

Every book has a story

Every book has a story.

Check in frequently to read the behind-the-scenes scoop on the Newberry’s popular Book Fair. The blog is maintained by “Uncle Blogsy,” otherwise known as Dan Crawford, Book Fair Manager.


Like a lot of widely-observed holidays, Memorial Day comes with a load of varied associations, observations, True Meanings. Originally a day to remember those who died fighting the Civil War, it expanded in several directions, taking on the dead combatants in all our wars, but also the dead generally. Many families made it an annual tradition to go out to the cemetery on Memorial Day and do maintenance, weeding the family plot, making sure the markers were secure, and leaving flowers or other tokens.

Of course, Memorial Day, originally observed on different days in different months from state to state, became established at the end of May, and then the last Monday in May. This became the Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer, the start of the tourist season, the day when, in northern climates like that of Chicago, you get out the grill, set out the lawn furniture, and try to find the inflatable swimming pool for the kids. Memorial Day now carries an immense amount of freight, with its sundry traditions.

Can’t quite see why dropping books off at a library which will be CLOSED for three days should be one of those. Why not save that for St. Martin’s Day or something less busy? (That was an inside joke for those involved in the upcoming exhibit on religious history; St. Martin’s Day falls on Veteran’s Day, November 11. I didn’t say it was an especially good joke, just an inside one.)

You knew that was coming, I suppose. But just this morning I ran into one of the reasons not to drop books off at a closed library. Somebody left six big boxes of books here on Sunday. The tops had been opened, and books were stacked here and there by some browser who came along looking for something to read. Don’t worry: they left your organic chemistry textbooks for me. I will repack your books and haul them inside before moving on to the business of the day.

There’s plenty of business, by the way. Just last week somebody gave me eight boxes of sheet music. Sheet music is popular at the Book Fair; if you haven’t checked lately, sheet music costs more than an average mass market paperback book. People like to find it at our prices, and we like to sell it to them. It’s just that the average piece of sheet music is only six pages long, so it takes a while to fill a box. Yes, when you’re done, you may have a box with two or three hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise in it but it still counts as just one box.

And this is a variegated collection with things in it which require extra searching. Is this Cha Cha number, with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on it, worth extra money? What about all these pop song arrangements for jazz combos? Here’s a collection of songs about how we’re bound to win this war (all from 1942, when we needed the reassurance). Look at this very young Dinah Shore, and this singer advertising that she sings over WBBM in Chicago: a kid named Dale Evans. Which, if any, of these bits of paper is worth a bounty?

And I have just as many weirdies in the record department. Here’s a rocker who inscribed her LP with a line I can’t actually quote here, but which is perfect for its time period and musical genre. Here are some twelve inch singles which feature five or six different versions of the same song (What’s a “heebie jeebie hop mix” anyhow?) Which of these are worth extra for their content and which for their outre cover art? It’s all work for the Manager, tracking down the tracks.

AND people are starting to alert me to the fact that there are rare and expensive CDs I should be watching for. (The California Raisins?) AND there are people dropping off books, too, by the way. Is this book of political humor by the man who went on to write pride and Prejudice and Zombies worth extra? (No, as it turns out.) What about this paperback romance by a woman who went on to make a name for herself with mysteries? (Also no, but these things can happen.) Should I sell these books on World War II collectibles or keep them on hand to help price the sheet music? AND I need to pick out a good Book Fair price for this car ionizer.

I am going to have to spend much of the holiday weekend resting up. Do not feel you need to make Memorial Tuesday memorable for me.

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