I guess the collecting bug started when I was kind of young. I remember being at sleep-away camp when I was 13 years old. I had a book with me “The Peking Dimension” by Ned Calmer. I would read it in my down time or before bed. It was a book of international intrigue that had me hooked from the start. When I returned home that summer I put the book on a shelf in my room. I still have that book today. And so it began--a lifetime love of books and book collecting.
For years I bought books with money I earned doing chores and babysitting for my younger siblings. My collection began to grow. After college I took a part-time job in a bookstore in the nearby mall while looking for full-time work. I was only there for about four months before landing a full-time job in Manhattan, but I was able to buy a large number of books with my employee discount. That is when I discovered some of my favorite authors: Tom Clancy and Ken Follett. I still have my paperback copy of the Hunt for Red October.
While working in Manhattan and making an actual salary I began searching my new surroundings for books and bookstores. One thing I discovered was that authors were always doing signings at NYC bookstores. I remember when Tom Clancy came and I brought all my Clancy hardcovers in two duffle bags so I could get them signed. I think his agent was a little peeved that I brought so many books with me but I walked right up to Mr. Clancy when it was my turn in line and said “Hope you don’t mind signing all these?” He replied, “You bought and read them so I’ll be happy to sign them.” I think his agent fainted.
At this time I was still flirting with the idea of law school and had purchased a paperback copy of Scott Turow’s One-L about his first year of law school. I was in the middle of another book at the time and lent the unread book to someone. I was hesitant since my books were my babies and I didn’t want to part with them even for a short time. I expect you know what’s coming—that’s right--I never saw that book again. For the true bibliophile books are a part of us and it is hard to let one go.
I lasted for 28 years in the financial world and read and collected many books. I did attend graduate school for political science and rekindled my passion for constitutional law and my love of The Federalist (Papers). I have many collectible copies of The Federalist--even a 2nd edition from 1802. My goal someday is to own the first edition but I haven’t convinced my wife that spending $250,000 on a book is a good investment.
This brings me to today. After parting ways with the financial world I knew I still needed to work. After many long talks with Mary (my wife) I decided to pursue my dream of opening a bookstore. I knew exactly what I wanted to create—a place to browse the shelves or just sit in the rare book room paging through a book from the 18th century. It needed to feel accessible to all even though many of the books were expensive. I never wanted to scare people away with the word “rare” so I called the store Michael Scarola Rare and Used Books. The connotation was better and would not put people off. Books can be found in all genres in my shop and in all price categories. There are $5 books and $5000 books and oh so many in between. Many are signed by the authors and are from my private collection. I did not read all of them but know enough about them through years of research.
Each day I wake up and look forward to getting to the store. Many things await me there. The like-minded people that still love an actual book over words on a computer screen. The feeling of a book in your hands, the paper between your fingers, that wonderful smell and maybe the signature of your favorite author—he or she actually touched that book—you feel a closer connection to that person like you’re somehow an insider. Kinda cool!!!
It is not just a job—it is a place where people can come together with a shared interest—books. They can be very different people with very different tastes but one thing they all agree on—a book is judged not by its cover but by the ideas espoused on the inside.
"My wife Susan encouraged me contact Rare and Used Books. I've been looking for something vintage to read that would be both historical and interesting. Michael Scarola was easy to work with and he helped me with great patience. - Dave T.
"The store is wonderful! I felt like I was in my dad's old library. Finding a gift for my son was easy. I wanted him to feel what it's like to actually learn from something that wasn't his phone." - Cheryl W.