The drizzle did not deter them from lining up on Thursday night, so committed were they to being among the first inside when the doors opened at 8 a.m. the next morning.
No, they weren’t Beliebers, nor were they waiting to buy Washington Capitals playoff tickets.
They were bibliophiles and the setting was the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart’s annual used book sale, which took place April 19 to 22. By many accounts, Montgomery County is one of the smartest in the nation. Bethesda ranked first nationally in a Business Journals’ analysis of the smartest communities with populations between 50,000 and 99,999, and in the same study, neighboring Chevy Chase Village came in first out of small communities. Nearby Somerset was not far behind.
In a separate study, Forbes named the Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick metropolitan area the second smartest in the country.
So what do all these smart people like to do? Read, it turns out, and this past weekend the area provided book-lovers a plethora of opportunities to restock their libraries, meet authors and rub elbows with like-minded folks.
The Stone Ridge book sale is one of the largest on the east coast, said Becky Meloan. She and her co-director, Judy Hansen, work part-time year-round at the school preparing for the sale.
Donations come in every day of the year, they said, and are sorted constantly. Each year they sell about 100,000 books, raising about $250,000 for scholarships, and they donate another 10,000 books to charity.
“These are people who love books, like to hold books, touch books,” Meloan said, gesturing towards a gymnasium filled with tables organized by subject.
“People don’t want to throw books away,” Hansen said. The sale allows people to rid their homes of unwanted books, knowing that they will end up in the hands of someone who appreciates them.
And the book shoppers do.
“They were lining up when my daughter left school Thursday,” said John Caterini, who sported the orange apron of a volunteer Saturday. Caterini’s daughter Caroline is in the 10th grade at Stone Ridge.
But the Stone Ridge book sale wasn’t the only stop on the book circuit this weekend. Running on Friday and Saturday was nearby Somerset’s annual used book and bake sale at Somerset Elementary School. And the Bethesda Literary Festival offered events throughout the weekend, include readings by well-known authors such as Chris Bohjalian and Kate Alcott aka Patricia O’Brien, as well as lesser-known writers.
One event was held on Saturday morning at the Bethesda Public Library, where about 30 people showed up to see children’s author and illustrator Susan Stockdale speak about her latest book, “Stripes of All Types.”
Paul-Jean Le Cannu, who attended with his two children Othilie, 6, and Ephrem, 3, said events like these are part of what makes Bethesda an interesting place to live.
“I like the fact that children here are initiated into the arts and art education,” he said.
Othilie, who sat cross-legged a few feet from the screen during the presentation, said she could relate to Stockdale.
“Sometimes I write stories,” she said. Her latest, complete with pictures, is called “I Love You, Papa.”
Perhaps Othilie can self-publish her book and join the dozens of other self-published authors who hawked their wares Sunday on Howard Avenue in Kensington. The Kensington Day of the Book Festival featured vendors selling used books, new books, children’s books and self-published books.
It was a crisp, sunny day, with live music playing in the background and a roster of authors waiting turns to read. People strolled up and down Kensington’s “Antique Row.”
Sitting behind a promotional poster for her self-published book “The Forgotten Mourners,” Magdaline DeSousa talked with a woman whose son had committed suicide 22 years ago.
It’s emotional terrain DeSousa knows well. Her book, part memoir and part self-help, was her response to her brother John’s suicide when he was just 18 years old.
DeSousa, who has a background in journalism, spent $900 to self-publish the book, which is now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites.
“I couldn’t stand the thought of giving away the rights,” she said about why she didn’t consider going the traditional route. Her goal, she said, wasn’t money, but to help others dealing with the same issues.