It’s not a happy ending. The last page reveals Borders bookstores nationwide are closing. That, of course, includes the Riverhead store, where, over the years, thousands of North Forkers have browsed and bought.
Seems the chain failed to keep pace with electronic technology. I can relate to that. It takes me 20 minutes to set the microwave clock each and every time the power goes off.
No matter. The story here is books. I’m pleased to say most North Forkers get their very own books from many sources in addition to Borders. On our fork there are several small independent bookstores. They’ve served us well for years. Then there are the other book suppliers, some a bit unconventional, but all geared to keep us turning pages.
For example, I volunteer once a week at a Greenport thrift shop. Clothing, pots and pans, toys — all kinds of stuff, including shelves and shelves of books. Over time I’ve gotten everything from cookbooks (100 ways to prepare meatloaf and still all mine taste the same) to Margaret Truman mysteries, to Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods,” to a biography of Teddy Roosevelt I’m in the middle of right now.
My husband, on the other hand, spreads out catalogs of books on the kitchen table and orders his reading by mail. From one of his favorite catalogs we’ve dozens of books, from aviation history (I like that Glenn Curtiss guy) to steam railroads (Durango & Silverton is tops, I think). Just say that whenever a book catalog arrives in our mailbox, my husband drops from sight for hours.
Out East Marion way there’s a very fine gent, Dr. Bill Emerson, who claims he gets “95 percent of my books at yard sales.” And I’m sure Dr. Bill has a good number of books because he’s a professor at Queens College. A math professor! That’s pretty impressive. It’s possible I’ve seen Dr. Bill at yard sales. But I doubt it. Unless he’s looking for fabric, too. Does he quilt, I wonder.
Now I figure if Dr. Bill buys lots of 30-dollar books for one or two dollars each, that’s a whopping savings each year. Like maybe $28 saved on each book purchased. See how good I am at math? Perhaps Dr. Bill could find me a position in the math department at Queens College.
This next book spot might very well be reserved for readers over the age of 21. Because the “help-yourself-to-a-free-book” rack is just inside Peconic Liquors in Cutchogue. Folks drop by to donate books or select a book and the whole North Fork community benefits.
On a recent afternoon I spent a half-hour browsing through the books and saw quite a variety of titles — from “A History of Western Political Theory” to a few romantic novels by Phyllis A. Whitney to some scary stuff by Stephen King. All these are guaranteed to keep readers in good spirits.
Let’s not forget North Fork libraries. Book sales are frequent and some of our libraries even have their own “bookstore.” You can purchase books, for example, at Southold’s Book Cottage or at Riverhead’s Yellow Barn.
And listen to where Jane Minerva, retired Cutchogue librarian, gets many of her books: The reuse area at the town solid waste facility in Cutchogue. Jane’s home contains packed floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Jane claims she never gets to dust all those books. But she does read them and that’s what counts. Matter of fact, you’ll find bookcases, lamps and comfortable chairs at the reuse area. Everything needed to enjoy a book.
Well, here we are. Electronic reading devices seem to be taking over and we’re told someday a child will ask the incredible question, “Mom, what’s a book?” But for now, let’s not worry. North Forkers will continue to fill their homes with books because they know a book in hand is worth two on a screen.
Ms. Lombardi is a resident of Cutchogue.