Taylor Swift

Did I ever imagine we would have any connection to Taylor Swift?


I don’t know much about her except that she is hugely popular and writes her own songs.

I guess I should listen to see what all the excitement is about.

Anyway, I was surprised when there was buzz about her in the office on Thursday.

She has a major new album release on April 19th: “The Tortured Poets Department.”

Part of the promotion is a pop-up “library” in Los Angeles.

We supplied many of the books via our #bookrescue division, www.booksbythefoot.com. Almost all the books there are hopeless survivors. They look fine but have no hope of being wanted by readers or collectors. We “rescue” them from oblivion and give them a new life where they are mostly used for decorative purposes. But they are still books and can be picked up and opened and perhaps read. They have hope because of our efforts.

It’s pretty exciting to me because millions of her fans will see her books. If legions of younger people think Taylor Swift believes books are cool, then certainly many of them will catch the fever as well.

I understand many of the songs are semi-autobiographical. That is what poetry often is—autobiographical songs. In extremis, poetry is often tortured.

I could call myself a tortured poet, and I certainly understand the concept.

I hope the album sells millions of copies.

And I credit the artist with popularizing the printed word from her vast platform.


The sun is rising in the forest now.


It will continue moving north a little each day until the equinox in June.

The last blog had no public comments. There were a couple private ones.

Maybe the stories are just getting repetitive.


Well, I have been on a roll. Rolling carts for months and months.

Same old, same old.

This weekend was no different, I’m afraid.

Carts, mostly.

Saturday was fresh carts—created that week.

By Sunday, those carts were all done, so I got into the old “kill” carts and a couple carts of vintage books loaded up from a hoard Larry’s been bringing in. These are from an elderly person (mid 90s) who attended the Library of Congress sales of “duplicates” in the old days. They are old. Very old. I’ve been too busy to do more than peek at the top layer of some boxes.

They had them listed online, but the listings are from the primitive days—which is really not that long ago.

I look at the couple hundred boxes and am daunted.

Will they be good and old? Or just old?

Regardless, they will be a LOT of work for me.

I was just too tired last night when I got home from a full day of old books. Too tired to do any gardening or split any wood.

The dogs were exhausted as well. All they did was lie around the dockyard on a sunny balmy day and wait for me to come out occasionally to play or disperse treats. When they got home, they flopped on their big pillow below the TV on the wall and slept. And slept. And didn’t move a muscle until it was time to move to the bed.

It is Monday morning. April 15th. The third anniversary of my brother Tony’s passing. He was a dozen years older than I. I was at the base of a sequoia in Muir Woods when he was breathing his last a few miles south in San Francisco. I could have sworn I felt him there—leaving this world. I wrote a tortured poem beneath that tree. It’s in the story linked above.

Something made me think his death put a measure on my life. Perhaps I had only twelve years left. If so, then I am down to nine.

It is also tax day. My accountants say I must bring down three very large checks. I could’ve have gone in Saturday or Sunday. They emailed they were open. But I couldn’t bring myself to leave my warehouse, my stool, my carts, my books.

I desperately want to get ahead.

This morning I will dig up some more bleeding hearts and move them to the Judas Grove below the bridge that crosses the deck.

The week has been a whirlwind. Unfortunately, many of the distractions didn’t involve books.

But as I said, over the weekend I threw myself at the backlog of carts. I made a great deal of progress and found some wonderful things.

My friend Michael Dirda came up Saturday afternoon to search the old book rooms for the esoteric material that he seeks. (He already has all the usual suspects and much more.) It is always a treat when he visits. When we are both finished with our book work, we usually go out for beer and food and conversation. It is the conversation that is the main appeal to me. Michael can speak on anything and everything “bookish.” We went to the Roasthouse Pub nearby and sat across from each other at a booth. There was no question of being distracted by sports on the TVs on the walls. We caught up on family and book friends. We talked about some the books he found.

Dr. Syn seemed to be the one he was most excited about. You may recall that Disney made a movie of it starring Patrick McGoohan.


The time flew by, and I learned a good deal. I told him about mutual friends at the New York book fair the week before. Eventually, it was time for him to head back to Montgomery County and for me to head home.

On Sunday, I redoubled my efforts and processed a lot of the very difficult carts that held mostly antiquarian titles. There was a great deal of the vintage jazz and African-American material that has been drifting in from… somewhere. Annika now has two cartloads, and I believe a lot of that will be destined for the upcoming DC Capital Rare Book Fair, where we will be exhibiting.

How often do I see vintage Senegalese or Cameroonian cookbooks?


And there was a nice first of Charlotte’s Web in a pretty good dust jacket.

I had grand plans to do some gardening or house work. But by the time I got home with the dogs, I had barely enough energy to heat up some (wonderful) spinach stuffed pizza with marinara ladled over it and recline before the big television on the wall and watch a couple Twilight Zones.

The accountant had been emailing me over the weekend inviting to come in to the office and give them three astronomical tax checks. They told me they’d be open Saturday and Sunday. I chose to wait ‘til Monday.

I got up early and forced myself to go and dig up seven or eight bleeding hearts and transplant them in the redbud grove below the wooden bridge to the deck. I’m so far behind on projects at home. Circumstances are conspiring against me. My social life has picked up substantially, so I’m going out to dinner many nights. Other nights I just don’t have the energy to do anything physical. So mornings before work have been my only chance to get my hands in the soil.

April 15th.

That day now has me think of my brother Tony. My last brother passed away April 15th, 2021.

But I did have to go in with checks and sign extensions.

That was painful.

I love my accountants just like I love my dentist. However, it always costs a lot and always is painful to visit them.

From there, I headed to Walmart to pick up some prescriptions.

My phone rang. “Alexis is here for your meeting.”

The new bookbinder! Damn! The state and federal tax blows had driven the rest of the day’s commitments out of my mind.

I rushed back to the warehouse and gave her a tour. Then we sat in the conference and discussed binding projects. I have a lot of material that would benefit from being restored or repaired and protected.

I let her take the first edition of Anne of Green Gables. The book has a loose endpaper and a slightly cracked hinge. But I really wanted a custom box built for it.

The conversation went well, and if the project goes well, I’ll be able to help her get her new business off the ground. And I’ll get some great books gussied up.

Then I had to rush off for a luncheon downtown. It was with my financial advisor. We caught up on each other and friends and family. She’s on an excellent trajectory. Forbes has her on numerous lists as top financial advisor and top female financial advisor. I rarely have lunch. It eats into the day too much.

Then it was back to the warehouse, where I worked on carts until my son came to drive us to see the Caps hockey game all the way down in the heart of DC. It was a thrilling game.

They won!

This was the penultimate game of the season. The next day they had to go to Philly. If they won there, they would make the playoffs! If not, their season was over.

Exciting that the last two games were so important.

It wasn’t ‘til midnight that I got back home.

Maybe my “long Covid” is behind me.

On Tuesday, I was up early planting Asiatic lilies. They’d wintered over in the chilly garage and seemed to have survived well. I have a couple hundred left to put in. Some will grow to five feet high. They are a little susceptible to being dug up by rodents, though. I’ve been saving little slivers of hotel soap hoping that will be a deterrent. I toss them on the beds near new plantings.

New plantings… the beds I built last summer from excavated stone are doing wonderfully. The daffodils in them are blooming a bit late, but that is normal for new plantings.

New flower bed

Then down the mountain to work.

I needed to pick up the documents for the Italy trip from my travel agent. His office is not far beyond the Frederick store. After that, I stopped in the Deliciosa Bakery for a bunch of Hispanic cookies, then went to the store.

It looks great. I walked around with my son brainstorming improvements. Then back to the warehouse with some of the remaining cookies.


Caryn found a signed Hunter Thompson with some photos laid in.

Hunter Thomspon

Is that Benicio del Toro? (He went to school not far from here—same school my sons went to.)

I worked ‘til 5 p.m. and then headed off for dinner in Olney with old friends I hadn’t seen since Covid.

When I first moved to Maryland with my parents so long ago, Olney was just a crossroads with a general store on one corner and nothing else. Now it is a booming exurb. I came in the “back way”—from the north: Interstate 70 to Route 97 South. (Route 97 begins as Georgia Avenue in DC.) It used to be a winding country road this far out. Just in the last four years, the roads have been widened. Roundabouts added. Maryland’s main “crop”—rooftops—planted in various densities everywhere.


It’s the black silent time, 4 a.m.

When did I fall asleep? 9 p.m.? 10 p.m.?

I was exhausted.

The week has me spinning.

I got home yesterday, and the housekeeper was still here. To stay out of her way, I went to the barn to split wood.

My version of “leisure time.”

She left, telling me she would come back tomorrow to finish up.

I sat in the recliner with a beer and watched some TV and then dozed away somewhere.

It’s 4 a.m. No reason to try to go back to sleep. I should write some, I guess.

My younger son introduced me to a birdsong app called Merlin. It is amazing.

I heard the first song in the dark a little while ago.

Phoebe. Carolina Wren. Tufted Titmouse.

The morning’s concert begins like this:

When things get busy, the air can fill up like this:

Now I know what I’m listening to.

It can be pretty addictive.

Wednesday was overbooked.

Folger pickup. Housekeeper. Washington Post ad rep?

It has been that kind of week.

I got up early and pre-cleaned the house so the housekeeper wouldn’t have to face my horrors.

I also carried a dozen or so large potted plants out so she could clean the spaces where they have spent the winter. There are a lot more to go. I don’t make any trips outside empty-handed.

When I got to work, I asked Clif if he would drive us to the Folger to pick up the last boxes. We only needed the SUV because there were only seven boxes left. I could navigate and do laptop work on the trip.

The phone chose yet another route for us this time, taking us north of the Beltway using the Intercounty Connector. There was no concern about “parkways,” though, since the SUV is not a commercial vehicle.

We made good time, but there was a rush to get back to Frederick on time for my WaPo appointment.

My friends from Capitol Hill Books had done me a great favor by bringing one of the collections I bought at the New York Fair back for me. It was too big and fragile to trust in my suitcase on the train. I felt bad imposing on them. Their shop is only a few blocks away from the Folger, and the first plan was to drive past and pick them up there. But Aaron suggested bringing them to the Folger.

The seven boxes were quickly loaded, and sure enough, Aaron and Helene were walking down the sidewalk toward us.

With the US Capitol dome looming over us, the exchange was made. It was a stupid imposition on my part.

Live and learn.

I stepped out into 4th Street and stopped traffic so Clif could back out of the Folger’s driveway.

This time, the phone took us south into Virginia and west on the George Washington Parkway.

We got back just in time for the appointment.

We are trying to think of a way to use the Post to “sell” books. Our current ads are geared mostly to “buying” books. Renee brought lunch from a place called Jetties in DC. I requested the Nobadeer sandwich. I usually don’t eat lunch, so I left the sandwich unopened while we discussed strategies and drew out ad ideas. (I ate half at the end of the day. It was like Thanksgiving Dinner on bread. Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberry. Amazing!)

The rest of my day was spent with cartloads of books…

Near the end of the day, I pulled a dark green volume off a cart with its spine lettering too faded to read in the shade of the cart.

“Gatsby!” I thought, “Hah! Feels like a first.”


I took it up to Annika to confirm it.

Yep. The typo for “sick in tired” was on the right page. (I can never remember which page.) The next day she confirmed it was a first edition.

Well, it is time to get up. I’ll quickly plant some of the lilies before I bump down the mountain and discover what today has in store for me.


How did we get here so fast?

I awoke early. Again. I don’t know why. I was exhausted last night. My housekeeper was still here cleaning some places I don’t believe have been touched since I moved here 14 years ago.

So I went out to the barn and split the rest of the big chunks of wood. Many were so heavy that I’d grunt hoisting them and walking them to the cradle on the splitter.

I made a good pile.

Stacked wood

Stacking will be another thing entirely.

I hate stacking wood. It is so futile. It will just be unstacked and burned some winter in the future.

When the housekeeper left, I heated some of the leftovers from my numerous recent restaurant meals and watched a couple recorded Perry Masons. (I was too tired—or lazy—to make the effort of putting a DVD on.

The house looks great. I’d taken more of the potted plants out Thursday morning. Some weigh 50 pounds or more.


I watered them all with a mixture of water and Miracle-Gro. Some look a little sad from their winter confinement. They should soon perk up. I also planted about 50 more lilies.

It was time to open the New York show books and see what we’d gotten.

These were the items that Aaron and Helene handed me at the Folger.’


When I saw “Sir Isaac Newton” in the Capitol Hill booth in New York, the alarms went off.

The Aubrey Beardsley Le Morte D’Arthur is a stunning production. It is amazing that the fragile parts in wraps have survived so well. My friends at Thorn Books brought this from Arizona to New York for me.


The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a notoriously fragile book. Imagine being one of the first people in the world to read the iconic story in a small, plain-looking, paper-wrapped book like this. Jeff Bergman also had this Eloise first with a nice inscription and drawing to Jane and Dick Powell—old-time Hollywood movie stars.


I’ve got to wrap this up. My editor has an appointment, and her backup needs to leave early.

So, the last show-and-tell is this enormous and stunningly beautiful William Blake set by the Trianon Press.


Some say these are the best facsimiles ever done of Blake’s vibrant illustrations.

22 Comments on Article

  1. Dan Blackwood commented on

    Thank you for sharing the life of a bookseller (rescuer?)! I find your stories very interesting, especially the visits to homes and other establishments. I hope Books by the Foot has a lot of new business from people interested in creating similar displays like the pop up library in LA but at their home. I’m very interested in aeronautical and aerospace history and might need to see if I can arrange my collection in such an inviting way.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I really need to get to some house calls!
      So much going on here I can’t get out!
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Alexander Hartmann commented on

    Mr. Roberts / Chuck:

    Forgive my familiarity — I feel as if we have met, having read your blog, and used your service, for longer than I can recall.

    At least one public comment, per your request.

    I worked in DC in the early 2000’s, and found Wonder Book then.

    I first saw Taylor Swift at the 2007 Nashville Riverfront Festival, where she opened for .38 Special. At that time, she was a country singer. How the tables have turned. I am pleased that Books by the Foot has at least a tangential connection to her. Impressive.

    Furthermore, and apropos of nothing whatsoever, your sunrise tracking is fascinating, and an inspiration.

    I have been looking for a birdsong recording on CD without success. Per my resourceful bookseller, I now have an app to check out.

    Thank you for all of it.

    Alex Hartmann

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I think if I’ve led anyone to Merlin I’ve performed a very useful service.
      I really appreciate hearing from you. It helps to know people are out there.

  3. Mike Hassel Shearer commented on

    Sorry no comments for awhile. So in the spirit of your garden: my garden. Today after some pruning and weeding, I picked loquats from our tree. They are not bad to eat. Although, I am wondering if better super cold or frozen or perhaps smashed and into vodka. ( Wilmington NC) Now a cold beer and cold pizza for lunch in our gazebo.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I could use some down time like that!
      The family has gone to Bald Head every year since the 90s.
      I dont go any more but have fond memories of the area.
      (Side meat – my younger son loves it and can’t find it up here).
      Thanks for reading and giving me envious ideas.

  4. Kelly W commented on

    I’m glad you’ve found Merlin. I love it also. I was able to see a Baltimore Oriel because it heard the call. You have so many birds in your woods also.
    Keep writing. I love reading your work.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thank you so much for your thoughts!
      I need to get out and go bird hunting away from the house.

  5. Rick Banning commented on

    Chuck, imagine your time and space machine is working correctly and you get in and visit William Blake as he’s printing and you get to look over his shoulder as he pulls a page proof and he hands it to you for your opinion……Rick

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That’s a great idea!
      I need to revive the hapless bookseller!

  6. Kathleen Arnold commented on

    Have you encountered any of this? University of Delaware Poison Book Project. More excitement one could do without.
    I am catching up with your blog. I have been to London for 10 days (first time outside Heathrow), whacked by Underground doors (mind the gap, die by door) & still recovering 3 weeks later. Then swept into 3 days of eclipse chasing (successful). Hoping to return to abnormal by Mothers Day, or solstice, or hoping to wake up one day & nothing hurts! Did not see nearly enough UK, as you may well imagine. Did get a private tour of Stonehenge at sunrise, made acquaintance of every kind of British corvid there, all most pleased to see us. Great weather the whole time we were there!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I’m so sorry!
      I got pinched by a London exit gate when a friends luggage I was pushing got stuck.
      Bloody mess!
      Hope youre better soon and glad the trip had highlights!

  7. Susan Valett commented on

    Merlin is addictive and a great way to identify new birds. About a week before I caught sight of them, Merlin heard a blue-gray gnatcatcher and a warbling vireo. I would have never have figured out what I was looking at if Merlin hadn’t given me an answer bank.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That is so cool!
      I’m glad if anyone discovers Merlin from the story.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. Susan Kavanagh commented on

    What a haul of books you got from the New York show! I loved them all.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      It was a lucky trip.
      Thanks for writing.

  9. Patricia Lawrence commented on

    I think there haven’t been comments because many of us are in the same place as you. Slogging through our days.
    But keep posting those sunrises for us. Better things will come soon enough.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks for that!

  10. Terry Fawley commented on

    3 Things
    Thank you SO MUCH for the Merlin app hint. It is truly awesome and addictive like you say.
    Congratulations on the Swiftie book connection, and may it encourage young book collectors/readers and savers as you wish.
    My accountant always said not to be totally bummed about having to pay taxes because it means you made enough money to have to pay taxes. That is very little comfort, though, when you’re writing those checks…

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      The Merlin app may be the best benefit these stories have offered in a long time!
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      1. Thomas Connor Wixon replied on

        Have been away with heart trouble & stent for 80 percent blockage in main artery. SLOWLY recovering.
        Keep up the great work, so many of us depend on your blog even if we don’t reply.
        Your Bookplate Friend

        1. Charles Roberts replied on

          Tommy, I’m so sorry for your health issues.
          Be strong and get well.
          Yopu’ve lots of bookplates yet to find.
          Let me know if you want me to send some.
          Thank you for your frienship.

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