Fair days for book lovers Sales: Entire families are finding area book fairs offer low-cost pleasure and holiday gifts -- not to mention nostalgia.

November 17, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A book fair on an autumn afternoon is a simple pleasure, a truth widely acknowledged yesterday in Owings Mills.

For Jon Goldman, 23, of Charles Village, the paperback of Emily Dickinson love poems he found at the crowded Brandeis Book Fair was just the thing to give the right person -- his future girlfriend, when he finds her.

For 61-year-old Betty Barth, it was a way to stock her winter bookshelves with the mysteries she curls up with during the "hibernating" season. She left the fair, at Garrison Forest Plaza, with five hardbacks by Sue Grafton about a fictional California detective named Kinsey Millhone, priced at $2 each.

For the 75 children at the Jewish Community Center's book festival, it was a chance to listen to Old Testament tales. Aaron Frazier, 6, was spellbound by King Solomon stories.

These were two of the three book fairs in the Baltimore area over the weekend, an activity that has caught on as a nostalgic -- and economical -- way for some to take the family and scout for more meaningful holiday gifts than might be available at the malls.

"If you're going to spend money, put it to good use, passing on knowledge," said Aaron's mother, Debbie Frazier, 38, of Owings Mills.

The third event, Random House's first Book Fair in Westminster on Saturday, attracted about 1,000 readers.

The turnout surprised organizers. "We have discovered reading is alive and well in Carroll County," said Diana Scott, community relations specialist at Carroll Community College, where the fair was held. Random House operates a distribution center near Westminster.

"There's a thing about collecting books," said Mark Arvisais of Baltimore, accompanied by his wife, Janine, at the Brandeis fair. "We seem to see a lot more [book] fairs these days."

The Brandeis Book Fair is in its 50th year. Hundreds congregated at the fair yesterday morning to thumb through more than 30,000 titles, all donated.

They were as diverse as "Primary Colors" by Anonymous (now known to be Washington journalist Joe Klein), Frank Lloyd Wright's autobiography -- which begins with his Welsh and Wisconsin ancestry -- and Kitty Kelley's unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan, published in 1981.

"We take everything we can get our hands on," said Doris Fuld, one of the organizers. "We try hard to be eclectic." The proceeds, expected to net close to $20,000, will benefit the Brandeis University library in Waltham, Mass. The fair continues daily through Sunday.

Readers, meanwhile, roamed all over the literary range, examining everything from Shakespeare sonnets to Edgar Allan Poe's essays to cookbooks.

Devora Guttman, 10, exultantly held up her treasure of the day, a book about Encyclopedia Brown, a child sleuth. Erma Ross, 42, came all the way from Annapolis to look for books about crafts. Bill Tashlick, 70, and his daughter, Thea, 17, of Baltimore, spent $63.50, mostly on travel books for a planned cross-country trip.

"We're poorer financially, but richer in reading material," said Tashlick, a retired city planner.

With time ticking toward the 21st century, a wave of nostalgia seemed to wash over the browsers. Old National Geographic magazines -- three for $1 -- went fast. So did the 1930s series of Nancy Drew books such as "The Secret in the Old Clock" and Hardy Boys mysteries such as "What Happened At Midnight."

"It gets in your blood," said Sondra Weinstein of Pikesville, delighted to discover an original from an even earlier era, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," by Samuel Clemens in 1876 -- before the author adopted the pen name of Mark Twain.

"This is the coolest thing of the day," Weinstein said. For such a thrill, $2 seemed a small price.

For Jon Goldman and his mother, Eileen, the sweetest moment was opening a $1 blue leather book of Thomas Hardy poems, in which someone had inscribed, "one token of my love, to a rare bTC woman" and dated the message March 9, 1925.

Goldman said that seeing the handwritten words was like finding "a piece of another person."

Pub Date: 11/17/97

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