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Hunting for treasures at the Newberry book fair

Gabi and Petra Komar examine a pop-up Willis Tower in one of their many finds at the Newberry Library Book Fair on Sunday, July 30. | Emily Moon/Sun-Times

Volunteers at the Newberry Library Book Fair like to say there’s something for everyone — any age, interest or political party.

From its collection of 120,000 books, the research library auctioned off two signed copies of Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices” and Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal.” On Sunday, Trump was winning, although one guest covered the copy with a $0 slip.

“Another person put books on top of them so they wouldn’t see them,” book fair manager Dan Crawford said. “To each their own.”

Book fair guests bid on signed copies of books by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. | Emily Moon/Sun-Times
Book fair guests bid on signed copies of books by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. | Emily Moon/Sun-Times

Whether red or blue, guests had plenty of choices — all donated by private individuals. “It’s a city block of books,” said Crawford, who oversaw his 33rd fair this year.

The selection included a signed copy of George R. R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones,” a book of Jimmy Stewart’s poems and a hearty assortment of “monster books,” which 9-year-old Gunner Goodwin said are more his speed.

“If you pull up a book, you enter the world of the book,” he said. “I like that you can just jump in.”

Guests don’t always come with a genre in mind. “I look for treasures,” said Chicago resident Ann Canada, a family friend who accompanied Goodwin on Sunday. Her latest find was a $50 memoir signed by Richard Nixon.

Visitors spent four days browsing six full rooms of books, posters and collectibles, most priced about $3. Prices ranged from $4,500 — “Holy Cats” signed by Andy Warhol — to 25 cents, the price of 10-year-old Gabi Komar’s new cookbook.

A budding chef, Gabi chose a copy of “Healthy Snacks for Kids,” hoping to add a few new recipes to her repertoire of pancakes and eggs. She said she plans to use it while cooking with her 6-year-old sister, Petra.

“She’s like my little sous-chef,” she said.

Mylene and Mark Komar were married in the library 10 years ago and returned for the first time Sunday — plus three kids and a pile of paperbacks. After browsing the selection, the family spread out their finds on a table. Petra flipped through an architecture pop-up book, while Gabi read to her 1-year-old sister, Sebrina. In between the ABCs, Gabi eyed her new Roald Dahl novel.

“I have $10,” Gabi said. “So my mom said go crazy.”

Bucktown resident Laura Collins favors vintage books on fashion and biology — but not to read. The 31-year-old artist looks for books with “timeless” images to use in her collages. Though she tears up the pages, she said, “I feel like I’m recycling.”

When the book fair is over, the library recycles, too. Crawford said The Newberry usually sells 90 percent of its collection, drawing a crowd of 10,000. The rest goes to representatives from Chicago-area schools, jails and nonprofits, who get their chance to browse on Monday.

On half-priced day, items were going fast: cookbooks, comics, topographic maps — everything but the two Kindles donated this year, Crawford said.

“I guess we’re not a Kindle crowd.”

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