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The wonder of old books: 10,000 & counting
Valerie Brown, owner of Lightly Used Books in downtown Turlock, adds her newest acquisitions to the used bookstores shelves. - photo by ALEX CANTATORE

Even as book retailers try to push towards a digital, e-ink world, there’s some irreplaceable, unmistakable greatness found only in old, printed books.

Perhaps no one knows the wonder of old books better than Valerie Brown, owner of Lightly Used Books in downtown Turlock. The almost 5,000-square-foot store holds roughly 100,000 books, all of which have passed through Brown’s hands as she buys and sells.

Speaking from behind the counter Friday, Brown was quick with a response as to why she loves books. But then, so were Brown’s customers.

“They’re tactile,” Brown said. “You can touch it.”

“Also, the smell,” piped in a shopper.

“You can feel the words,” said another customer.

Perhaps more telling than their words was the bookworms’ desires to chime in, to be a part of the discussion about books.

Those musty tomes are a communal thing, a shared joy. After reading a great book, most readers’ first response is to hand the novel to a fellow reader.

It doesn’t matter what kind of book it is, Brown said. From new bestsellers to old classics, each work has something to share. And that knowledge, those teachings about our world and being human, can be passed right along.

“If a book touches you, you can share that feeling with a friend,” Brown said.

Brown started talking about her favorite books: “A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole, and “Geek Love,” by Katherine Dunn. While “Dunces” is well-known in the book world, earning a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, “Geek Love” is a bit more obscure.

“What’s it about?” asked a customer at the book’s mention.

Every day, Brown stumbles on new favorite books. A customer will sell a stack of novels, noting “This one is really good,” and Brown will have another entry on her reading list.

It’s her favorite part of the job, Brown said, poring over the new acquisitions, feeling the books, and seeing what they’re all about.

“I want to go and read everything,” Brown said.


209 reporter