Free Books!!!

By Jorge Antonio Vallejos

My friend Marcia pointed at her two shelves and said, “Take anything you want.” 

Music to my ears! 

If you are a regular reader of you know that I love books. 

But there is something I love just a bit more than books—free books! 

Over the years I’ve been very privileged and lucky to have many books given to me by friends and mentors and people I meet at readings and book festivals. 

I literally have books stacked on my desk, floor, a wall to wall shelf I made over my bed, and on top of four plastic bins that are full of guess what? Books!

Books are a big part of my life.  They always have been.  I’ve been going to the same library since I was 10 months old.  That’s a long time.  And every time I go downtown I hit up all the used bookstores along Bloor Street and Yonge Street.

You could say I have an addiction, a healthy addiction.  And there’s no BA—Books Anonymous—around.  Nor should there be.

I can’t say “No,” to free books.

“Want a book, Jorge?”, somebody, anybody, will ask. 

“OK,” I’ll say.

So two weeks ago when Marcia, a retired friend who frequents the coffee shop I go to, told me she was leaving the hood and wanted to give me free books I had an orgasm like the good bibliophile that I am.

Moving can be a tricky and long process.  So when Marcia was postponing my visit while she sorted out the books she wanted to keep I persisted while practicing patience. 

Scheduled visit after scheduled visit was pushed off to the next day.

“It’s best that you come tomorrow,” said Marcia three days in a row.

She even told me what time to call before coming by.  I’d call and be told that the next day was better, or I’d leave a message and wait by the phone for her return call. 

I was on a mission.  A free book mission.  And I wasn’t going to abort.

Finally, the time was set was the day of.  It took several phone calls but I got in there.

Books were everywhere: books in boxes, books on the floor, books on the couch, and the two huge shelves full of books that I was free to attack.

I sat in her living room surrounded by my favorite thing in the world: books.  All types of books: art books, communist books, religious books, novels, poetry collections, popular non-fiction books, memoirs, biographies, anthologies, and short story collections.  The only genres missing were sci-fi and fantasy and crap like The Davinci Code.  Marcia has good taste.

Two hours flew by as I picked up book after book, flipped through pages, read passages, and piled books by the chair I was sitting on. 

Marcia and I talked while she moved things around and I happily took book after book from her collection to add to mine.

“That’s a good one!” she would say. “Oh, you have to read…” she would follow.

I walked away with books I didn’t even want because of Marcia’s recommendation.  I’d like to think it was her wanting to nurture my brain as opposed to her getting rid of books. 

After two hours I walked away with 45 books, three unused sketchbooks, and a reading diary.

My backpack was full and an extra bag I brought was overflowing.

Shit was heavy!

When I got home my lower back was hurting as was my right knee.  It was all worth it!

Although I had just spent two hours selecting books from Marcia’s shelves I went through them again once entering my room. 

Here are some of the many titles I am excited about diving in to:

GRANTA 21: The Story Teller

Modern Poetry of the Arab World

Other Fires: Short Fiction By Latin American Women

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Poetry of Black America

The Poetry Dictionary

The Biography of Ana Akhmatova

Permanent Red: Essays in Seeing by John Berger

The KGB Bar Non-Fiction Reader

I Wanted to Write a Poem by William Carlos Williams

Seasons of Sacred Lust by Kazuko Shiraishi

Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 by Philip Larkin

The cool thing is that I wanted some of these books but had not bought them yet.  Now I don’t need to. 

I have no set date or order for reading the books I have.  I just know that I’ll be reading them and that I have reading material for many years to come. 

It thanks to people like Marcia, and there have been many, that my eyes are always on a page and my mind is constantly expanding.  

“Read everything!” is what Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Bacca wrote me in an email.  

“Read a lot,” is what one of my mentors, Acoma poet Simon Ortiz, said to me when I studied with him at University of Toronto.

Thanks to Marcia I’ve got 45 new books to keep following their advice.

Forty-five FREE books!

Tune into Black Coffee Poet Friday March 16, 2012 for my first VLOG–the beginning of my series: FREE BOOKS. 


About Black Coffee Poet

Black Coffee Poet is a mixed race poet, essayist, and journalist who focuses on Social Justice, Indigenous Rights, STOPPING Violence Against Women, Film, and Literature.
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8 Responses to FREE BOOKS!!!

  1. Roxanne Blood says:

    Your journey was my journey to heaven…lovely story!

  2. mella brown says:

    I love your “FREE BOOKS!!!” post!! I have a lot of books and feel very attached to each one of them, for different reasons. This is often a source of contention when/if i move, but i am hard pressed to part with my books. They all have a story, in more ways than one. There’s the story between the covers, but also, where they came from, who may have passed them along, the mood I was in or what was happening in my life when i purchased it. I treasure the ones with names and dates written inside the cover – even if i bought it used and have no idea who they are. Anyway, your post is a sweet tale about how us book lovers will bust out a knee just to surround ourselves with new words and ideas. Also, my life-long love affair with books has often happened in isolation – reading, trips to the library, combing smelly, stuffy used book stores. As a book lover loner, it’s nice to know there are others out there (ha, maybe a support group is in order after all haha).

    And that being said, I read most of your posts and always thoroughly enjoy them and think about them afterwards. Really, I should voice this more.

    Thanks for writing, and often writing about challenging yet important stuff.


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  6. Pingback: FREE BOOKS!!! # 2 | Black Coffee Poet

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