“Tennessee,” a guide on the state’s attractions by Margaret Littman more than 500 pages thick, was at the top of Jeffrey Petrou’s stack of books as he left the Southwest branch of the Durham County Library this week.
“In case we’re evacuating to Tennessee,” Petrou, a local entrepreneur, said when asked why he chose the book.
With the threat of power outages due to Hurricane Florence, a steady parade of Durham bookworms followed Petrou out of the library with their own stacks Tuesday evening. Most chose books more for pleasure than practicality.
Real estate adviser Kelsey Berland, 42, carried 10 books out of the library, saying she sought out “fluffy” page-turners like mysteries and true-crime stories, including the late Michelle McNamara’s new book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” But she was most excited to open up Tom Hanks’ “Uncommon Type,” a collection of lighthearted short stories that all involve an antique typewriter — and yes, that Tom Hanks.
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“I’ll go volunteer if I need to, but otherwise, it’s like, ‘Nope, I’ve got all my books at home,’” Berland said. “Somebody was telling me you should be ready for up to seven days of no power.”
She seemed confident her 10-book stockpile would be enough.
Stacks of books even taller than Bertrand’s were common. Some patrons toted full bags of books in both hands to feed the whole family.
Durham School of the Arts eighth-grader Theo Reeves was weighed down by the stack of 17 he lugged alongside his mother. The middle schooler came just to get the next novel in the series he is reading, “Darke” by Angie Sage. But he decided it was better to be safe than sorry and emptied the shelves of everything interesting he could find.
Retired talk radio producer Mona Gauthier followed the Reeves family out with just one paltry book, the detective novel “Nine Dragons” by Michael Connelly, and felt the need to justify her scarce supply.
“I already have five books at home,” she said. “I’m going to make sure I don’t get bored.”
Inside, librarian Larry Daniels said regulars were calling the front desk, wanting to renew their books for a little bit longer. Thunder rumbled outside. A young boy shouted, “I can tell the hurricane is coming,” and ran out the door with his parents chasing after him.
The rain held off as the real storm swirled off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. The boy was ready with a book in each hand.
Hank Tucker is a student reporter for The 9th Street Journal, which is produced by the Advanced Reporting Lab course at Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center.