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Emerald Oil, a gas station on the corner of Lake Murray Boulevard and Baltimore Avenue, not only boasts about having the lowest gas prices in La Mesa, but it also has a wide variety of free books and magazines!

The owner of Emerald Oil said that some books were donated by a “mystery man” about a month ago. Then, last week, the man showed up and unloaded a truckload of books and left. He has since shown up with more, leaving them on a table outside the store and including a “donations” jar. There are mysteries, romance novels, biographies, magazines, oldies dating back to 1969, religious books, and self-helps. The only downside is that people are allowed to take one book per visit.

Originally, the gas-station owner suspected that the “mystery man” was buying lots of books only to try and find valuable ones, but that was not the case. In this instance, the books were a present to the community from a man who wanted to do something good.

The man’s name is Larry and in a way, he went from a zero to a hero. A fit man of about 42, Larry said he had spent some time in prison for doing drugs. He said that the prisoners used to fight over books. In prison, a book was Larry’s big treat. After he got out 20 years ago, Larry said he started grabbing as many books as he could.

Larry said he has been going to mainly swap meets for 22 years, where he would wait until the swap meet closed to accumulate as many books as he could find left behind. Today, Larry has a collection of about 6000 books that he plans to bring to Emerald Oil.

When asked about his dreams, Larry said he wanted to open a thrift store one day and keep supplying books.

“To me, it’s worth it to keep bringing the books, if somebody reads them.”

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