CHICAGO — WTTW, one of the Midwest’s premier public media organizations, will air the pilot episode of a new local series, AMY’S BOOK HUNT, on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. on WTTW11 Chicago. Subsequent airings include Sunday, January 7 at 3:30 p.m. on WTTW11 and Tuesday, January 9 at 4:30 p.m. on WTTW Prime (11.2/Comcast 370/RCN 37).
The 30-minute program invites viewers to experience the thrill of the chase as independent bookseller Amy Brent, daughter of legendary Chicago bookstore owner Stuart Brent, explores rummage sales, basements, and attics hunting for rare and valuable books. She shows audiences how a seemingly innocuous book, destined for the recycler, could be worth thousands of dollars. Veteran Executive Producers Gary Sherman (A&E’s “First 48: Missing Persons”) and Phillip Koch (CNN’s “Chicagoland”) look forward to producing an ongoing series with host Amy Brent based on this initial pilot.
“Many people have a treasure sitting right on their bookshelves and they don’t even know it,” says Brent. “We find amazing first editions that are precious to collectors, owned by people who had no idea of their value.”
The world of collectible books goes far beyond enjoying a wonderful story. Even books as seemingly main stream as certain Harry Potter editions can be valuable. In September, a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold at Heritage Auctions in Dallas for more than $81,000. “People generally buy and save books they love, not as an investment,” Brent explains. “I’ll spot a book that could be rare and valuable, and hold my breath while I’m checking to see if it is a first edition. Finding those gems is really exciting.”
Brent is well suited to lead this treasure hunt. When she was 13 years old, her dad woke her up on a Saturday morning and said, “It is time to go to work.” When she was in high school, she headed to his bookstore in Chicago every Saturday. And what a store it was. Her father opened The Seven Stairs bookstore on Rush Street in Chicago just after World War II, moving it later to North Michigan Ave. and changing the name to Stuart Brent Books. Over the decades, the now eponymous bookstore became a city institution and literary center. Brent’s visitors and friends included Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, John Cheever, Ben Hecht, Ernest Hemingway, Katharine Hepburn, Tennessee Williams, and Gore Vidal, among many others.
Brent currently owns and runs the Stuart Brent Children’s Book Club (stuartbrent.com), a subscription service that matches books with children’s interests and reading levels. She holds dual degrees in French and English literature from Smith College and has studied Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Hebrew. When she is not running her book club, Brent is pursuing adventures around the globe. “I have been thrown from a horse while foxhunting in Ireland and chased by an angry monkey in Vietnam. I have commandeered a motorcycle in Cambodia, slept on reindeer furs while trekking in the mountains of Norway, jumped off cliffs into the sea in Corsica, and missed the boat in Ketchikan, Alaska,” Brent recollects. She plays to win: she is a five-time National Champion in Karate. But above all, she says, “I am and always will be a voracious reader.”