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Book lovers flock to The Newberry for annual book fair

Shoppers browse through six rooms of The Newberry on Thursday during the 32nd annual book fair. | Virginia Barreda/Sun-Times

Amid a world of convenient Kindles and Nooks, the experience of browsing through stacks of books at a library has not lost its charm — at least not for first-time novelist Sharon Virgo.

Virgo was one of the many people who flocked to The Newberry library on Thursday for the start of the 32nd annual Newberry Book Fair.

“There’s some sort of pricelessness of about having books from library that have been read before and have had someone else’s interest imprinted on it,” Virgo said. “There’s more variety and exploration involved” from hand-picking a book.

Virgo, who described her first novel as “magical realism,” was carrying a stack of books that included titles such as “A History of London” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” She says these books are “great for [her] research.”

Dequan Jackson said he is considering going to school for psychology. He bought some some books to begin researching the topic. | Virginia Barreda/Sun-Times
Dequan Jackson said he is considering going to school for psychology. He bought some some books to begin researching the topic. | Virginia Barreda/Sun-Times

Bibliophiles young and old combed through 120,000 used books donated throughout the year specifically for the four-day event. Books of all genres including art, cooking, history, philosophy, mystery and religion fill six rooms of the library lobby.

Shoppers will also find used vinyls, CDs, cassette tapes, DVDs and VHS tapes. The prices vary, but the majority of the items go for $3 or less, according to Alex Teller, The Newberry’s spokesman.

“The optics of seeing so many come into the building for the sake of buying books is just really reassuring that people still read physical printed copies,” Teller said. “Obviously reading stuff online had advantages, but it also has its disadvantages. And so that’s where print still has a role to play in society. The book fair confirms that.”

Shopper Dequan Jackson said he is thinking of going to school for psychology and figured he would buy some books for a low price to start researching the topic.

“I like buying them in hard copy, it’s a way different experience,” Jackson said. “I comprehend the text more when it’s in my hand and I can feel it, as opposed reading the information on a phone.”

Teller said the library has also “unearthed” some special donated items such as the first print edition of the “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” from 1892, selling for $2,500. A proof copy of “Game of Thrones” containing typos, anomalies and a signature by author George R. R. Martin will be sold for $4,000.

Teller said the book fair is a “signature event” that creates a “sense of community.”

“People donate books, and then they go and buy new books. And those books make their way back,” he said. “It’s almost a self-sustaining ecosystem.”

The Newberry will host the book fair noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The library is at 60 W. Walton St.

First-time novelist Shannon Virgo spent her afternoon browsing for books for research on her next novel. | Virginia Barreda/Sun-Times
First-time novelist Shannon Virgo spent her afternoon browsing for books for research on her next novel. | Virginia Barreda/Sun-Times