Thursday, May 16, 2019

What Can Be Better Than a Library Book Sale?

I love a good library book sale, and my local library booster club has been known to have a healthy stash of good books. For a while, however, I struggled to find books I didn't already own.

Until Saturday.

That morning, I remembered (quite to my surprise) that this was Book Sale Day Two. And I was rather excited. This surprised me: I am not a Book Sale Day Two shopper. Usually, I visit the library for a late lunch on Book Sale Day One, when I beat the crowd and rub elbows with the seniors and college students — but that Friday, I was lunching with friends and sharing book recommendations.

It's not that I didn't have plenty of new or new-to-me books on my nightstand, poised and ready for their bookmarks (or, as some people call them, "quitter strips"). The previous week, three envelopes and a large box, all filled with books, arrived on my doorstep. Helen Oyeyemi was at Politics & Prose across the river, and I ordered seven of her books; not just her latest, Gingerbead, but the others in her repertoire that sounded amazing.

Then there was The Lost Gutenberg — not the real one, but the book on the topic. A book about a book? Sign me up! (Well, click "order now" on Amazon.)

And literally the night before the library book sale, I stopped by the local Barns & Noble for a copy of one of the books recommended at lunch, Where the Crawdads Sing.

But no matter how many books are in the queue, library books sales cannot be ignored.

Armed with $30 in cash and two large bags, and wearing my gym clothes for flexibility and comfort, I breached the fray at the City of Fairfax Regional Library.

Hardbacks, audio CDs, mass paperbacks, and trade paperbacks, some oversized and a few tiny books lined the halls, spilled into the foyer, and covered every square inch of every meeting room in the library. And that doesn't count the dozens of library carts full of $1 hardback novels on the sun deck (and thankfully, the sun held out during the sale).

I should have brought backup. (Note to self: bring a non-bookie for muscle next time.) My arms were aching by the time I made it to the sun deck to peruse the hardbacks. I put back a few trade paperbacks that duplicated titles on my Kindle to make room in my arms, but only reluctantly: just because I own one format doesn't mean I can't own two, or three. Why limit myself, I rationalized: sometimes only a particular material will do.

After 90 minutes, I had to surrender. My two bags were full, I stuffed a couple of paperbacks in my purse, and I came out $1.50 under my budget. (Note to self: bring $40 next time.) When I told Peggy, my book sale cashier and longtime friend, to keep the change in case someone came up short, she whispered, "No one ever comes up short at the library book sale."

Then she slyly reminded me that the following day was Bag of Books Day: $5 for an entire grocery-bag full of books. I winked at her: challenge accepted.

On Sunday, I went, I stuffed a bag full of books, and I walked out with lots of books for my neighborhood Little Free Library.

To be fair, I knew the books I put back the previous day weren't going to be there — but that wasn't going to stop me. Inside, I am still that 17-year-old college freshman going home with a stenographer's handbook, a book of badly drawn cartoons, and a cheap paperback beaten all to hell with a cover that kind of scares me.  On Bag of Books Day, no books are left behind.

This book sale took four books off my wishlist: I was Anastasia, The Circle, American Housewives, and Beloved. .

Now, I have a print copy of A Man Called Ove, a book my friend Carole loaned me saying simply, "This is a Chris book." (She was right.) I returned the favor by sharing Sleeping Giants with her so we could read it together. (Her husband Steve read a few pages and decided to read it next. My bookish heart is full.) I had the e-book for a year, but it took a recommendation from Anne Bogel and the library book sale to make it a reality.

I have books in the car that I need to drop off at friends' houses, and a few that belong in the Lunchroom Lending Library (L3) I launched at work.

I did all this the weekend before Independent Bookstore Day — what was I thinking? — but I won't slow down. Not when it comes to finding and reading and owning and sharing good, previously read and loved books. Not when it comes to supporting my public library. Not when it comes to encouraging the love of reading in my family and in my community.

So, does anyone want a copy of Manhattan Beach, or maybe Goodbye, Vitamin? It just so happens I know where you can get one for a song....

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