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Can't resist a cart of free books

Be on time to class – or look through free books? The answer was clear.

Engrossed: A girl takes her time at the annual Friends of Waco McLennan County Library book sale in Waco, Texas.

Duane A. Laverty/Waco Tribune-Herald/AP

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I have been asking myself lately if it's possible that I have a problem – an inability to resist free books. For me, there's almost something magical about them. Three recent incidents come to mind.

There was the library's used-book sale a few Saturdays ago. As my wife and two children were ferreting through books on sale for 25 cents, 50 cents, and a dollar, I stood immobilized in front of a cart of books with a big, handwritten Free sign attached to it.

I was considering almost everything on the cart: books about flowers and diet – books I knew I wouldn't read. I was even giving a second thought to a book by a radical political figure whose views I disagree with.

I must have spent 10 minutes in front of that cart of free books before emerging with just five (an Alice Walker novel included) and moving on to help my family look through the books we'd placed on a nearby table.

We had to decide on the keepers and the ones we'd return to the shelves. We walked out of the library with about 25 books and paid only $7 for them. Not bad.

But I cherish the five free ones most of all.

The second incident occurred when I had barely enough time for lunch before my next class at the community college where I teach. I had forgotten to bring the small lunch I'd packed.

Eschewing the cafeteria food on this day, I decided to call ahead to a restaurant and order a chicken Caesar salad to go.

On my way to pick up the salad, I drove past an adult learning center and saw an unmistakable and familiar sign: Free Books. And there were four or five carts of books sitting outside the building.

It would be nice, I thought – really wonderful – to look these over, but I simply didn't have the time. I drove past, but two blocks later stopped my car.

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