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Short Takes

Boston book fairs to open

“Liebig Company’s Practical Cookery Book” from Rabelais book dealer in Biddeford, Me.

“Liebig Company’s Practical Cookery Book” from Rabelais book dealer in Biddeford, Me.

Antiquarian Book Fair

This Saturday the Back Bay will be a sweet spot for those who love to have or simply hold old books. That’s when close to 200 dealers will converge on two book shows.

The 36th annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair opens Friday and runs through Sunday at the Hynes Convention Center. On Saturday, the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show will be held at John Hancock Hall. On that day, a ticket to one show includes admission to the other.

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Highlights of the antiquarian fair — which attracts 120 dealers from across the country as well as Canada, England, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Argentina — include an 1866 Civil War photography book bound in Moroccan leather, an 1894 edition of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” and a first edition of the 1920 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Age of Innocence,” signed by the author, Edith Wharton.

There will be talks about collecting rare books, the history of cookbooks, and the 200-year-old American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. On Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m., experts will provide free appraisals of books.

The Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show features 65 dealers, a few of whom also will have a presence at the Hynes. One of the most interesting items at this smaller show is a rare first edition of the first three volumes of Stephen King’s unfinished serial novel “The Plant,” being offered for $10,000. Each volume was printed and distributed in lieu of a Christmas card in the 1980s. King inscribed the volumes in this set to Dave Smith, one of his wife Tabitha’s professors at the University of Maine. The first one, dated Jan. 11, 1983, offers “Good (if slightly belated)” wishes for the New Year.

Details at www.bostonbookfair.com and www.bostonbookshow.com.

Bestsellers Cafe in Medford reopens

Horror stories about renovation projects gone long are common but Bestsellers Café in downtown Medford has a rather extraordinary one. Located in a building that dates to the Civil War era, the bookstore closed in 2007 for renovations that were expected to take three months. That was before structural problems were discovered. Five years, three months, and one day later, Bestsellers Café reopened.

The general interest bookstore has a large children’s section. The refinished hardwood floors and French doors overlooking the Mystic River lend an airy feel and the café has expanded its menu.

Co-owner Rob Dilman is eager to schedule live music as well as author readings. From 1 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 24, Steve and Marilynn Carter will be on hand to talk about their book, “No Fret Cooking” (Infinity). It includes two CDs with music to cook and dine by. Marilynn comes up with the recipes, and Steve, who used to teach guitar at Berklee College of Music, provides the music.

Coming out

 “Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing” by Constance Hale (Norton)

 “Kurt Vonnegut: Letters” edited by Dan Wakefield (Delacorte)

 “Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit”by Joyce E. Chaplin (Simon and Schuster)

Pick of the week

Dana Brigham, co-owner of Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, recommends “Brain On Fire” by Susannah Cahalan (Free Press): “Thanks to a dedicated doctor, family, and friends, a promising young reporter survived a near-death experience to write this terrific literary memoir. The author lived a medical mystery — from what seemed to be a bedbug bite to complete madness — and then relived it to understand what had happened to her.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.
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