The Book Thing Baltimore is also known as The Baltimore Free Book Trade or sometimes just The Free Book Guy - referring to Russell Wattenberg, who started BTB about three years ago. This is the idea: Russell and his small squad of volunteers collect books from the Balto/DC area. He takes donations from over-stocked suburban libraries and publishing houses, from yard sales and individual donors, from everywhere and anywhere there are books with no home. He gives them away. To churches, to prisons, to libraries, to under-funded inner-city schools and, best of all, to anyone and everyone who visits the BTB office in the historic Charles Village Neighborhood in the marvelous Charm City, Baltimore.

(Open Sat. and Sun. 9-6, volunteers on Wed. all day. To get there, make your way to the corner of Charles and 27th Streets and look for the "Free Books" signs. When you find a basement apartment virtually exploding with books and a big tall guy that kind of looks like Santa Claus in a black T-shirt and jeans, you're in the right spot.)

I cannot over-emphasize the coolness of this place. In just one visit, I managed to walk away with a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, All the King's Men, A definitive history of MRI, Sirens of Titan, Gravity's Rainbow, an international atlas of cheese, The Joy Luck Club and, (the prize jewel) Volume 4 of the 1973 Survey of the Bituminous Coal Fields of Pennsylvania.

And, as Russell can't get enough of saying: All the books are free. We encourage greed.