Best Place for Free Amusement and Edification: McKay Free Bin

This is one place where you get so much more than you pay for—the three bins out front that embrace the castoffs from McKay’s bustling business. You dive in and take as much as you like, no fee, no manners required. Because some people drop their books directly into the bins without entering the store to see if they’d bring trade credit (or get bored waiting in line and just heave-ho), there are some surprisingly good finds to be had. True stories from veterans: a hard copy Don Quixote, 17 assorted romance paperbacks, all by Anne Mather, a Jughead double digest, never read, and a complete set of Dr. Seuss hardbacks. A recent foray may be more typical. It yielded Fifth Edition Literature: The Human Experience (hmm), 1988 Outstanding Young Men of America (encyclopedia volume size, who knew?) and The Bear Santa Claus Forgot (pretty easy to see how this book became homeless).

But they’re free! And with three simple strategies, you can get even more value from the set-up: 1. Come on Saturday evenings or Sunday afternoons, when trade-your-book lines are longest and more people get fed up and drop off their recent paperbacks and high school English class/Oprah book club reading. 2. Retool your reading habits—you can learn to like Guideposts, vintage psychology textbooks, and condensed Readers Digest books like so many East Tennessee readers before you. 3. Skip the books and just watch the body language of people surreptitiously sneaking books from the bin, tacitly vying for the same cookbook or coverless John Grisham novel, or loudly warning their kids away from the bins and then coming back themselves later.

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