By Anne Gautreau
President of the American Association of University Women-Dearborn Branch
Recently, a woman who works for the city of Dearborn shared a charming anecdote about how her love of reading was nourished by her mother’s annual trip to “bag” day at the American Association of University Women-Dearborn Branch used-book sale. Bag day exemplifies one of the best shopping bargains to be found anywhere. Even this year, at our 63rd sale, you can stuff a paper-grocery sack with hard-back books and pay a single-digit amount. That woman’s tale of her mother’s determination to provide her children with books made me recall my own mother, who often bribed me to behave by dangling the promise of a trip to a local gift store owned by one Mrs. Ingersoll. In that store, after an “entire” week of good behavior, I was allowed to prowl low-set shelves aimed at children and find the next title in a series of books appropriate for my reading level. My mother’s skillful hooking of me with a love of reading began with her purchasing a simple series, one book at a time, titled "The Bobbsey Twins," about two sets of fraternal twins. After that, I became a pioneer between the covers of the "Little House on the Prairie" series. Compelling adventures about farming and taming nature soon gave way to Nancy Drew and her plumbing of secrets and solving of mysteries, not to mention driving a divine little blue roadster! Then the I-want-to-be-a-veterinarian phase hit. In fifth grade, the Lassie series and horse stories such as "Black Beauty" charged my imagination. I reveled in those sweet, sentimental tales of animal fealty, suffering and ultimate triumph. At the close of those books, I nearly always relished having a good, sinus-clearing cry as well.
My mother had enabled my addiction. I was hooked for life. Willingly reading books was to enter a spell cast by swirls of black ink on white paper. Coherent thought transferred from the writer’s imagination to my reader’s mind. Our brains were inexorably linked. For me, books had become far more than bribes. Their ongoing gifts melded minds and clarified the universal experiences most everyone discovers and endures and conquers in this experience called life.
Today, bookstores are disappearing faster than I care to admit. Remember The Little Professor and its post-church crowds on Sunday mornings? Remember the many Borders Books with labyrinths of volumes organized by genres and topics. Remember the amazing bargains at the Borders Outlet Store in Dearborn Heights? Remember the knowledge promised in all The Time-Life series? Remember the Book-of-the-Month Club when intellectuals like Clifton Fadiman, with his Lifetime Reading Plan, persuaded readers of the absolute necessity to delve into histories, biographies, travel tales, scientific advances and literary fiction?
I don’t think I’ll ever tire of holding a book in my hands, of delighting in fine paper stock, of examining illustrative engravings, of smelling pulpy fiber. When opening a book, there is the distinct sound of confined life taking a fresh breath. The voices of characters enliven the imagination, and in well-written ones an old-fashioned sense of wonder takes hold. Time travel becomes effortless. Authors who succeed in their tasks are seductive charmers. Enchantment and wonder become all there is for a fully engaged reader. Books are nothing less than powerful magic wands.
When reading old books, one can sometimes discern the finger prints or stains another reader left behind. Sometimes a pale-penciled remark lines a margin. Therein, one reader whispers to the next. Lauren Willig, writer of historical fiction, perhaps said it best: “Old books exert a strange fascination for me -- their smell, their feel, their history; wondering who might have owned them, how they lived, what they felt.”
Books invite you to celebrate other lives and places. Don’t miss the magic. Visit AAUW-Dearborn’s gigantic-awesome, bargain-priced, used-book sale upstairs at the Dearborn Ice Skating Center from Sept. 18 through 21. DISC is on the north side of Ford Road, east of Greenfield and west of Chase.
Once there, you’ll want to rescue some precious books in need of homes. Those dear volumes just need a bit of space and a little attention. Keep in mind, like all loved ones, they have the power to transform lives and enrich you and your home. Bargains galore await those of you with good eyes and curious minds. The members of AAUW-Dearborn look forward to meeting you at our sale! Proceeds are devoted to local philanthropic endeavors.
For more information, visit dearborn-mi.aauw.net and/or booksale-aauw-dearborn.info.