If Rachel Cleveland had been able to snag a job at a library, the Little Charity Book Truck might not exist.

"My dream has always been to work in a library or bookstore," said the Chaska woman, who chased that dream after a recent health scare. "I actually applied to a bunch of library jobs out here. I must have applied to 10 and didn't get even one interview. So, I was like, 'This stinks.' That was actually my kick in the pants to do this."

"This" is a tricked-out 1996 Toyota truck, imported from Japan, that turns into a mobile bookstore. Little Charity Book Truck buys new books at a discount, sells them at list price and gives the proceeds to two charities: V3 Sports, which is raising money to build an athletic facility, including a pool, in north Minneapolis;and the Link, which serves young people dealing with homelessness, sexual exploitation and the justice system.

Beginning last May and extending into October, Little Charity Book Truck is visiting 50 to 60 farmers markets, community events and coffee shops, peddling bestsellers in a range of genres. The store stocks several hundred titles and, on a good day such as the "record-breaking" one she had at the Stone Arch Bridge Festival, sells up to 100 books.

Much like a food truck, stops are listed on a website, littlecharitybooktruck.org, and on its Instagram page, which is the best place to look for rainouts and schedule changes.

A lot of pieces had to fall into place for the book truck to hit the road: Cleveland has a master's degree in public policy and a background in nonprofit work, so she knew where to look for start-up information. She's buddies with Angie Ross, the owner of Chapter One books in Victoria, who offered advice. Cleveland's husband, John, is a "car nut" who owns a Toyota and Lexus repair shop in Eden Prairie, and knew the perfect truck model. And Cleveland loves giving back, something she knows she's fortunate to be able to do. All work for the truck is volunteer; she does not draw a salary.

Even after several months of researching the concept, Cleveland said this first year for the book truck is one of trial and error: "I have these three months of summer to find out as much as possible."

She had a notion that people who shop for asparagus at farmers markets might overlap significantly with people who read. That's turning out to be true. On the other hand, she wasn't planning to carry cookbooks, which take up lots of space and tend to be expensive. But the folks behind the Maple Grove farmers market suggested cookbooks were a natural fit for a place where people care about food.

"They thought people might shop around the market and get recipes to use," said Cleveland. They were right and Cleveland was "very happy to be proved wrong. Those cookbooks flew off the shelves."

She's learning what sells and what doesn't. Family-oriented events require extra picture books, for instance. Not surprisingly, truck browsers are looking for beach reads, with this year's top sellers being Twin Cities writer Abby Jimenez's romance "Just for the Summer" and Catherine Mack's comic mystery "Every Time I Go on Vacation Someone Dies."

Nonfiction is less successful, although nonfiction that moves like fiction sells — think Erik Larson, whose "The Demon of Unrest" does well, along with a favorite of Cleveland's, Patrick Radden Keefe's "Say Nothing."

And not all farmers markets are created equal. She sold only two books in a day at one market, but the truck has been so successful at Linden Hills Farmers Market that Cleveland has eight more visits planned there through October.

Cleveland is an avid patron of independent bookstores. That's why she's working to support them, not compete with them.

"I was really worried about stepping on toes because I want independent bookstores to thrive," said Cleveland, whose truck is parked near the bookstore Comma when she sets up shop in Linden Hills. "What I do is if people come up to the truck and ask for a title I don't have, I'll direct them to whatever the closest bookstore is."

Nonprofit bookstores may be having a moment. Books on Central, which sells used books, opened in Faribault last fall, donating proceeds to United Way. And Cleveland knows of a Cincinnati store/truck, which recently shifted to nonprofit.

Outfitting the Little Charity Book Truck was expensive. So it's a good thing this summer is convincing Cleveland that she's in it for the long haul. (Literally. It's safe to drive the truck on highways but she feels more comfortable avoiding them, so it takes her an hour to get from Chaska to St. Paul.) She's already looking ahead to next summer's schedule and has committed to the same charities again for 2025.

"It gets really hot out there," said Cleveland, but she's not complaining. "Omigod, no. This has been a dream!"