Other People’s Libraries

I very much believe that you can learn a ton about a person by looking at his library. Or at least you learn enough to wonder. I have talked about a box of books at the library spinning my imagination in circles and it happened again at an estate sale a week or so ago.

It was in my own neighborhood – no one I knew, but it was professionally run and I remembered the sale manager saying that the prices were not negotiable and the client was very specific about what she expected to get for her snow blower.

I’ve been looking for an end table, which is why I went to the estate sale. Actually, what I really want is a small dresser to act as an end table. I really liked the one in the master bedroom but it wasn’t for sale so I went into the next room and there were the books.

I almost had a heart attack. A whole bunch of Joan Didion that I didn’t have. A whole bunch of Philip Roth that I may or may not already have on my shelf. A bunch of classics. This woman – or her mother or father or whomever – should be my grandmother. Who are they?

Well, there was a Haggadah, so they are probably Jewish. And a bunch of opera books and some other random music stuff. A bagful of paperback popular mysteries. So..cultured, but understanding the need to melt one’s brain. Unless the books belonged to two different people.

I decided that my speculation was intrusive and impolite, so I grabbed a Didion, dropped my dollar at the table and left.

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