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Curator of overlooked cultures

Despite being relatively young when compared to countries such as the UK, Italy, China, and Japan, the US has many repositories of the past.

Our major cities have art and history museums, orchestras, ballets, statues of great men and women, monuments and libraries. For example, a visitor to the U.S. capital can spend a week exploring the city’s museums and outdoor exhibits (various Smithsonian museums and galleries, National Gallery, International Spy Museum, Bible Museum, Victims of Communism). may take some time. There are museums, Vietnam Veterans Memorials, and more, but they only cover a few of the city’s more than 70 museums and galleries.

Even small towns visibly show the pride of their past. On the courthouse lawn in Front Royal, Virginia, where I lived for the past six years, there are statues and memorials dedicated to local citizens who fought in the wars of this country. Bell Boyd House preserves memorabilia once owned by the famous Confederate spy. The Virginia Beer Museum, which is also a bar, offers visitors a glimpse into the state’s brewing history, and visitors can take self-guided tours of battles fought in the area during the Civil War.

And, of course, these cities and towns have schools, universities and public libraries that are treasure troves of history and culture. More than 117,000 library bookshelves hold Shakespeare plays, biographies of George Washington and Abigail his Adams, books of Renaissance art, and millions of other pieces that make up Western culture.

Second hand bookstore.

Bookshelves at Baldwin’s Book Barn, housed in a five-story dairy farm built in 1822 by Quakers in the West Chester suburb of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Library of Congress. (public domain)

An emporium of culture and tradition

Of course, almost every bookstore, whether chain or independent, qualifies as a carrier of culture. At his two Barnes & Noble stores in Asheville, North Carolina, where I used to live, you can find classic pieces and this season’s bestsellers. The same goes for Malaprop’s, a popular independent shop that caters to progressives in town.

There are many second-hand bookstores in the same town, each with its own flavor and atmosphere. For example, the Battery Park Book Exchange near Grove Arcade downtown is known for offering wine, champagne, and other beverages along with two floors of his used books. A short walk from my apartment, this place has become my home away from home and the place I go to on every walk around town. There is Mr. K’s Used Books, which is a department. It was my go-to destination for some serious browsing and searching for a box full of gifts for my grandchildren.

As with these establishments, most of the antiquarian bookstores I’ve visited in the last 50 years offer treasures from the past, many at affordable prices, some of which you won’t find anywhere else. There were some things I couldn’t do.

Providing Magical Time

Like a lepidopterist who stalks a meadow in search of butterflies, or an archaeologist who sifts through the sand to find a button or coin, the book-lover takes a leap of the heart into a second-hand bookstore, discovering the beauty and potential of the possibilities. I live in wonder. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never been a more staunch advocate. The mother of a toddler who found a beloved poetry book from her childhood, and the fan of Dorothy Sayers who picked up a copy of “Discomfort at the Verona Club,” both seem to have struck gold in that. leave the store.

The thrill of this chase has two other great pleasures. The first is accidentally discovering a forgotten book that you missed. A few years ago, at a fundraiser at Grace His Episcopal Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, for a few bucks I got about 30 copies of the “Famous American Childhood” series. It was not a new edition, but an old one bound in blue or orange. It is drawn with a cover and a silhouette. That unexpected discovery took me back to my boyhood and propelled me into the future when I thought about sharing these treasures with my grandchildren.

The second joy concerns cost. Its popular quantities, purchased at bargain basement prices, make the buyer feel smart, self-righteous, and walking on air. We sponsor special sales of excess books from time to time.

Three years ago, while browsing the table of books set up for the event, I came across a complete set of Will and Ariel Durant’s 11-volume Tales of Civilizations. After confirming that this tag is priced by volume and a bargain, I asked the cashier about the cost and he said it would be $3 for the entire set. I had my own set at her home, but I dropped her $5, told her to keep her library change, put her books in her box and staggered. I was. I later gave this to a friend who is a history buff as her Christmas present. .

Yard sales and library sales are special occasions, but second-hand bookstores provide readers with this kind of fuss every day through our culture.

here. Let me show you what I mean. I go on adventures and you come with me.

blue plate special

Epoch Times photo
The front of Blue Plate Books, a used bookstore in Winchester, Virginia. (Provided by Blue Plate Books)

We arrived at Blue Plate Books in Winchester, Virginia at 11:28 am on Wednesday, August 10th. It’s a risky business and therefore our expedition may fail completely, as I only know the place through its website, but I wanted to share with you the wonders we found. I’m here.

Blue Plate is part of a strip shopping mall with an unimpressive exterior, but a large billboard showcases its merchandise. Judging by this façade, one might easily conclude that we would be disappointed.

But as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. As you walk through the front door, you find yourself in the store’s perfect jewel box. Piano music in the background. Here is a labyrinth of more than 20 of his hideouts and cubicles, most of which consist of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, where the books themselves are sorted by genre and alphabetized by author, like a grenadier. in line.

A large tapestry of the interior of Dublin’s Trinity College Library is featured in one corner of the store, with interesting trinkets scattered between the bookshelves. I was lucky. This is a magical place and book lovers may be engrossed for hours.

meet our friendly staff

Epoch Times photo
Inside the Blue Plate Books. (Provided by Blue Plate Books)

And the staff are as welcoming as the shop itself. Greg, a retired Navy captain who works part-time here, can give us some details of his business, mainly because of his love of printed matter.

“When Blue Plate opened 15 years ago, there was a romance novel store nearby, and Pat didn’t want the competition to hurt the business,” he explains. Owner Pat Thane, author of that act of bravery, is away on vacation this week.

Another part-timer, Christine, will be enrolling at the University of Virginia this week, and as we spoke, I realized that she had attended secondary school with my oldest grandson for several years.

Young manager Noelle Schoeman is from South Africa and her parents immigrated to the US in 2003. When she arrived in America, she couldn’t speak any English. She is a fan of reading and books, especially fantasy she is a genre. She hopes to become a gynecologist one day.

Our successful road trip ends with a little ragnyappe when we get home. I bought Stella Gibbons “Cold Comfort Farm” on the recommendation of a friend. While flipping through the pages at the dining room table, I discovered one of the added bonuses offered by second-hand books: an inscription. “From Gary M. to Mary,” the note is proclaimed in bold handwriting.

This message is another little link to the past, another piece of shared reader-to-reader culture.


When I told Greg that I was writing an article about used bookstores as cultural treasures, he said he liked working at Blue Plate Books because he felt “surrounded by Western civilization.”

It may seem that my enthusiasm for the book itself has swayed me away from the thesis here, but both Greg and I know the truth of his words. Walk away with a piece of your past that you bought and tucked under your arm.

Bookstores may lack the charm and awe-inspiring exhibits of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or DC’s National Air and Space Museum. But from those shelves, the living and the dead share dreams and ideas, triumphs and defeats, laughter and tears.

If your town is lucky enough to have one of these museums, please visit. Whether it’s an old edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s story or a second-hand but easy-to-read copy of James Lee Burke’s The Explosion in the Tin Roof, pick up your favorite book and take this paper and print. We pay our gallery curators. By keeping these bookstores alive and healthy, we tend and nurture the gardens of our culture in our own humble way.

Epoch Times photo
“Blowdown on a Tin Roof” by James Lee Burke. (pocket book)