Episode 59 – The Book Cellar

I love to read. Always have. In elementary school, my nose was always buried in a book. I was never happier than when discovering a new favourite author: Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain were supplanted by Irving Stone, Thomas B Costain, Agatha Christie, and JRR Tolkien when the high school library revealed its treasures.

When I met Ted, he introduced me to science fiction; Asimov and Heinlein in particular. I soon started reading Philip K Dick on my own, as well as fantasy series like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern, and David Eddings’ wonderful Belgariad.

When the boys were young, I’d read books – always more than one – to them before bed, and then I’d read my own after they’d gone to bed. I read while supper was in the oven. I read while the laundry was in the dryer. I probably would have read during their baseball and soccer games if I hadn’t been the team mom and scorekeeper. (As an aside, I absolutely love that number 2 son has carried on the bedtime reading tradition, and that our eldest grandson is already a voracious reader at 8 years old.)

By the time both boys were in school, Ted was working for Random House, the huge publisher. One of the employee benefits was access to a semi-annual warehouse book sale. Soon our home was filled with books. In addition to those in our many bookcases, there was always a pile beside my “reading chair” ready to be devoured. It was a fantastic way to discover new authors, and reading was an inexpensive hobby while we were on a tight budget.

When the boys were old enough to have summer jobs, and I was still working at elementary schools and got laid off every summer, I would read a book a day during July and August. I was never too fussy about what I would read, although it was always fiction (or cookbooks), and I only rarely set a book aside without finishing it – it had to be REALLY bad.

Retirement has meant lots of time to read, but Ted is no longer able to be the supplier for my “fix”, so I’ve had to find other solutions. Around this same time last year I was writing about using e-books, and the phenomenon of used book exchanges in some of the condos in which we’ve stayed – there was even one on the Viking Sun cruise ship!

I’ve also shopped used book stores and flea markets, but this year in San Antonio we’ve discovered a somewhat unique used book store: The Book Cellar. Literally a “cellar”, it is in the basement of the central branch of the San Antonio Public Library. While many libraries have occasional sales of their de-listed books, what makes The Book Cellar unique is that it is open 7 days a week, is constantly being replenished, and is run by a group of volunteers who are true book and music aficionados.

There are many reasons why libraries de-list books. In the case of non-fiction, they may simply be outdated information. In the case of fiction, it’s more about keeping the collection current and relevant within the space constraints of the building. Space needs to be made for new authors, for new releases, for current prizewinners. Those things are what keep readers coming in to the library – and explains why my beloved Thomas B Costain, so readily available in the 1970’s, is nowhere to be found 50 years later.

Sometimes fairly new books get de-listed to make room for more popular reads. At this particular library, a fiction title has been taken out fewer than 4 times in its first year on the shelf gets removed to make space for something new. New titles are occasionally stocked in multiples, either due to their popularity or as book club sets; after a while, the “extras” are de-listed.

All of this means that The Book Cellar has a really great, well-curated selection of books, almost all offered at $1 or less.

We’re expecting rain all this week in San Antonio, so we won’t be walking the River Walk, exploring nearby towns, or heading out birding, but it’s the perfect weather for reading! Since our visit to the store Ted has been working on a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle bought there and I now have a stack of books, each chosen from the shelves at eye level (the selection was daunting, so I’m saving the other shelves for future visits) and bought based on cover blurbs that sounded intriguing. I finished the first book on Sunday while the Oscars were on TV (Death of a Hollow Man, an Inspector Barnaby mystery by Caroline Graham), devoured the absolutely excellent From the Kitchen of Half Truth, by Maria Goodin, on Monday and Tuesday, and have now moved on to The Arriviste by James Wallenstein. It’s still grey and rainy.

When I’m done with them, I can return the books for resale to benefit the library one more time, or leave them in the condo for the next tenant – the one certainty is that we’ll head back to The Book Cellar at least once more during our stay. Although we’re leaving San Antonio before the true rainy season hits in May, eight books aren’t going to last me 3 months!


  1. One of the best things about retirement is the time to read!!
    Funny you should mention The Dragons of Pern. I was just rereading one the other evening.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved it so much… You knew I would. Margie would say she didn’t have time to read, she was busy with housework I didn’t have time for housework, I was too busy reading. I’m reading Anne Perry’s series WW1 series. I’m reading Shoulder in the Sky.

    I MISS THE SALES,!!!!!!! It is an addiction. IF I ever get to go again, I think I’ll get the car backed up and just keep on throwing books in!!!

    Love you so much!


    Liked by 1 person

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