We are almost always buying, sometimes avidly, sometimes less so. Sporadically we have to stop, chew & swallow a mountain of books we have acquired all at once (see ‘avidly’, above). Unless you happen to find us in one of our post-binge-buying stupors, here are some selling guidelines:
PART ONE: The No-go’s
The resale value of most books has, sadly, gone to zero. The world is choking on its copies of ‘The Girl with The Pearl Earring’ and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and ‘It Takes a Village”. Very little that has issued from the big, commercial presses these last 20 years is still of interest to anyone (see exceptions below), especially if it sold well at the time.
We have an abiding disdain for the practical. Nearly any book that helps you become a better, happier, wealthier human being is anathema to us. Even worse than the practical is the general. Broad overviews of, say, WWII or Tuscany or the French Impressionist, are tough sells.
Lastly, and most obviously, books that contain information that is either out of date or obtainable on the internet are dead in the water.
PART TWO: The Always and Near-Always Want List
a) 20th Century poetry, especially Objectivist, New York School, Black Mountain or L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E related. Basically anything experimental, or else just plain good.
b) Western philosophy and cultural theory
c) Books on the occult and esoteric religious traditions. We have a lot of aspiring alchemists to please.
d) Literature as follows: literary first editions, especially pre-1980; handsome editions of the classics; literature in translation; almost anything related to the Beats; science fiction; revolving roster of en vogue Brits and Americans.
e) Physics and mathematics; editions new or old of landmark works in all sciences.
f) Art/Photography, esp. monographs. Limited editions and artist’s books are also nice.
g) Greek and Roman classics; military history, esp. of pre-20th century conflicts; Western New England; Great Awakening; Colonial US history. (Why are they all under ‘g’? I don’t know.)
h) Books about Medieval and Renaissance history, culture, cooking, science, philosophy or religion. Everything but the lit.
i) raising chickens; keeping bees.
PART THREE: Usually
a) Renaissance and medieval literature. This area has been demoted from ‘always’ , but is still potentially of interest, especially Dante.
b) Psychology: classics works, Jungians, British psychoanalysts, Reich. Theory over practice.
c) Music (all genres and epochs); Asia and the Near East; a lot of academic world history; cooking; children’s; travel and exploration; theology; scholarly books on the bible; mythology.
PART FOUR: Occasionally:
a) Literary criticism and secondary literature generally. The more recent the better here.
b) Political science, esp. Marxism, communes and utopias.
c) Recent academic works in the other social sciences.
d) Detective fiction
On average, we pay a third of the retail price in cash; less for marginal and run-of-the-mill material; more for books that strike us as particularly cool or rare. We generally offer a third more in store credit than in cash. We will travel to Boston/Cambridge, New Haven, New York or wherever sizable, high-quality collections are to be had.