I like the urban tradition of leaving books on the curb for strangers to carry off. To one like me who has built his library from cast-offs, secondhand stores, and less honorable means, there are few better surprises than finding abandoned stacks and a sign that reads, “Free Books.”

That’s just what I found this morning on Calvert Street NW. The collection was mostly political history and biography with a socialist bent, and bits of literature mixed in. I snatched most of the latter: Dostoevsky, Kundera, Woolf, Nietzsche, Plato, Solzhenitsyn, Nick Hornby.

Try to call me selfish; I call myself struggling. At $7.50 an hour, I can’t pay full price at Kramerbooks, Olsson’s, or even most of the secondhand stores, which usually overvalue their stock (Letters To a Young Poet was $6 for one battered edition. That’s an 80-page book.). And given that whoever owned this collection was strong on worker’s rights, I assume that person will not mind my taking my fill. The books may still be out there. They’re on the north side of Calvert just east of the Ellington Bridge.