The Book Fair

Tonight, I’m signing books at my old school’s book fair. There’s something about going back to your old school that creates its own time warp. In my head, it’s suddenly 1989 again and I’m in a kilt. Or 1995 (still in a kilt!). And I remember, very vividly, just what that book fair meant to me.

The second we were out of class, we would race upstairs to the library, everyone eager to be the first one on the spot, to get dibs on the best Victoria Holts and Jean Plaidys before they were all gone. I can close my eyes now and tell you just where those books were sitting: The Time of the Hunter’s Moon, The House of a Thousand Lanterns, My Enemy the Queen….

I don’t know who did the book-buying for the book fair back in those days, but I am grateful to them from the very bottom of my heart. I found some of my favorite books and authors there at the book fair. It was there that I bought my copy of Gone with the Wind in fifth grade– and then read it again and again until large chunks of pages had fallen out and it had to be replaced.

I discovered Elizabeth Peters at the book fair, both her contemporaries and her Amelia Peabody books, starting with Legend in Green Velvet and The Curse of the Pharaohs. At the same time, I grabbed up Barbara Michaels’s Someone in the House (it was years before I realized that Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters were the same person).

Other notable book fair finds? Dorothy Cannell’s Down the Garden Path (the same battered old copy that I re-read last week) and Elsie Lee’s Mansion of Golden Windows, both of which had a formative effect on my developing prose style. (Hello, snarky heroines!)

And that’s not all. My very first Georgette Heyer novels– The Nonesuch, The Corinthian, and Faro’s Daughter— all came from the Chapin Book Fair.

Thank you, O Book Fair. I lift my signing pen to you– because it’s a pretty sure thing that I wouldn’t be writing the books I’m writing today without first reading the books I found there.

Where did you find your favorite books?


  1. Christine on November 18, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Scholastic book orders! Those were the highlight of every month and the way I built up my Babysitters Club collection.

  2. Joanne M. on November 18, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Absolutely lived for the day when my teacher would pass out the Scholastic Book Club order forms!! Still have all of my childhood books — The Velvet Room was an old favorite. Later in life, there was Maple Street Bookstore, a charming little cottage near Tulane University that was a book lover’s dream. Rooms of eclectic collections of books piled as high as the ceiling. It reminded me of the kind of house an absent-minded professor would own….dusty, a bit dim, with classical music playing softly, and the heady scent of paper and ink with a touch of potpourri.

  3. Joanne M. on November 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

    And, have a wonderful time at the book signing at your school! What a wonderful feeling it will be for you to return to the place where you first dreamed of being a writer! I always wanted to be a teacher, and it was a great coming full circle when I returned to my elementary school to teach third grade (which just happened to be my favorite school year).

  4. Sheila on November 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I loved the Scholastic book order, but my favorite was the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie. That is where I found the non fiction section and discovered biographies and histories, an interested sparked by reading the “little Maid” series, which was old even when I was young, and We Were There. It was an easy step to historical novels and romance.

  5. Betty S. on November 18, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    How wonderful for you to have the chance to return to your school for the book fair as an author! You will be such an inspiration to the students.

    My love of books was nurtured by my father who took me to a library that was housed in the basement of an old stone house in the park. I was only 5 when we first walked down the steps through a stone archway and entered a magical world of books. I could check out five and read them all as soon as I got home so we could hurry back for more – of course they were only picture books with very little print on the pages, but I felt so important. From then on, I was the library’s very best customer.

    When I got married, my husband and I joined the Doubleday Book Club because he was an avid reader also. No matter where we moved (he was a Marine), we could get books cheaply and quickly. That’s where I discovered Victoria Holt, Mary Stuart, and Daphne DuMaurier. How marvelous that you were able to get such quality books at your school book fair. I always worked the fair at our school as a teacher, and of course couldn’t resist putting a stack in the back room for purchase – I bought WAY TOO MANY BOOKS!!!

    Have fun!

  6. Lynne on November 19, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Oh, the memories you’ve revived. I loved those book fairs. The books were those very compact paperbacks, at about 25 to 25 cents a pop. (Yes, a long time ago.) My first copy of “Desiree” (Annemarie Selinko), “Katherine” (Anya Seton), and quite a few other books came from those days. How lucky for you, Lauren, to able to revisit those days at your school.

  7. Nancy Kvorka on November 21, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Mine were the local library, one of my aunts who started me on Mary Stewart which led to many others and an ex’s mother who gave me a certain book in 1974 by Elizabeth Peters. I still have that book. It was many years before I realized Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michael’s were one and the same. I also have to thank local Barnes and Nobles and Borders for prominent displays of some of my favorite author’s books that has led to many current favorite authors among which are you Lauren, Tasha Alexander and Deanna Raybourn. I remember when I first saw all of your first books. And finally Amazon referrals and this blog. I went to book fairs at my schools too.

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