Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Big Book Sale Re-Visited

On April 10 I attended my third Big Book Sale at the library. This time it wasn't held at the Main Branch downtown but at a brand spankin' new one located about 45 minutes from where I live. But, it was a lovely Saturday morning, the drive was pleasant, and I was listening to a good book so I didn't mind the commute.

When I stepped out of the car I became immediately aware that I had forgotten my canvas bag at home, so it was probably a good thing I had limited myself to spend only $10.

It was my first time in this branch, a bright and open modern structure with lots of windows, high ceilings and plenty of light filtering through the tall Live Oak trees outside - thick with spanish moss. It had a sculpture I'm not sure I understood which consisted of thick glass discs made of different colored whirled glass. At first I thought the discs were designed to catch the sunlight and filter reflected colors into the room, but the discs were attached to a wall above an entry into the main stacks, so light was not able to penetrate them. It reminded me of the bottoms of water tumblers strung together with wire. I liked it.

I turned my concentration to the combinations that $10 made possible. Ten hardbacks; 20 paperbacks; 5 hardbacks and 10 paperbacks; 8 hardbacks and 4 paperbacks; 5 paperbacks and 7 hardbacks with 50 cents left over. Exactly how many combinations could I come up with? The mental exercise became an obsession and I began to drive myself nuts, "Damn and blast," I said to myself. At least, I thought I said it to myself. One of the problems with living alone is that one speaks out loud to dogs, cats, plants and oneself. I don't pay attention to myself at home, I just let myself prattle on. But when heads turned to stare at me in the line, I turned and looked behind me as well in a "who was that" effort at deceit. I doubt it worked.

I went back to staring at the sculpture trying to appear nonchalant; and, as I pretended to ponder its arty-ness, a sturdy and efficient-looking librarian addressed the politely waiting crowd to my complete and grateful relief.

"You will find that this auditorium is much larger than the one at the main branch. Which means you will also find that there are a greater number of books for sale."

Yipee! (I double checked - I had not shouted it out loud). I started salivating; but, also thought "Curse the budget! Curse the canvas bag sitting on the dining room table."

She continued:

"Please note that there are several glass doors inside the auditorium marked 'Fire Exit.' Do not use those doors under any circumstances because the alarms will sound and the fire department will automatically be summoned."

I assumed that the warning would not apply if a fire did break out and that she believed we were all intelligent enough to figure that out without being told. I liked this librarian. She gave the impression of someone solidly in charge of her new terrain, delighted to see so many faces gathered for the sale, but determined to keep order nevertheless.

I studied the crowd. There were a lot of families with children in tow and about the same number of "seniors." There was not as much diversity as one sees at the downtown book sales, certainly not as many art students, but there was the same happy almost festive feeling as the clock ticked down to 10:00 a.m.

The librarian stood sentinel at the double doors, glancing up at the wall clock and then down at her watch in synchronization toward the big moment. She withdrew the key from her pocket turned the lock and swung open the doors.

There was no big rush; we filed in in an orderly fashion. Inside the auditorium long neatly prepared tables held what seemed to be miles of books, displayed pages down and spines up, in two rows per table. One walked up one side of the table to look at the titles, made a turn at the end of the table, and then came down the other side. There were also the dreaded boxes under the tables, which I basically avoided notwithstanding my Total Gym workouts. The books were categorized and clearly marked History, Adult Fiction, Cookbooks, Biography, etc.

I hate to bring this up, but there was a very nice-looking, tall, gray-haired man behind me who had apparently anointed himself with the most odious cologne during his morning toilette. Everywhere I walked, there he was - right behind me. He wasn't following me, but he was definitely on the same trajectory. I wondered if he lived with a woman. Surely not. Surely if he did, she would have set a match to the bottle, or hidden it, or would have insisted on separate bedrooms until he changed his scent. But I was wrong. As I was leaving I saw them walking toward their car. They were dressed exactly alike; both were wearing pink shirts and khaki slacks. They made a perfect pair: he odoriferous/she with no sense of smell. They were a sweet couple (at a distance).

There were almost too many books and I had to be back to the island by noon. So, I basically had only an hour to make my choices. It was impossible to "do" the entire room. There was only one specific book I had hoped to find, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. I was shocked when I walked over to juvenile fiction and it was the first book I saw.

Here's what I came home with:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (because it was recommended by Janell at Spare Pages and by several other bloggers, and I liked Chasing Redbird)

Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka. I grabbed this one for no reason. Since then I've done some checking and it has gotten fairly good reviews, so maybe it was kismet.

Spider's Web by Agatha Christie. No need to explain that one.

Shroud by John Banville. I've not read any Banville and I remembered it was on that list I say I care nothing about.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. I remembered seeing this book at the bookstore but never picked it up. When I read the cover and learned it was set in the Civil War era I thought I'd give it a try. Just today, I learned that in 2003 it was made into a major motion picture starring Jude Law...a testament to how out of touch I am.

Dinner With Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich. I liked the premise of a book club as a theme (and although I've heard that theme has been done to death in novels, I've not read one.) When I got the book home I did a little Google-ing. Apparently it is one of those books one loves or hates (a la The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for which there seems to be no middle-ground). The fact that one reviewer called it a "clunker" worries me a bit. I'll give it a try; it can always be re-donated to the library for the next Big Book Sale.

Red River by Lalita Tademy. Again, I had not heard of this book or author (which doesn't mean a thing, really) but it had a Civil War theme and the description on the book jacket sounded promising.

Wolves Eat Dogs by Martin Cruz Smith. I loved Gorky Park so I took a flier on this one.

The Joy of Chinese Cooking by Lo Mei Hing because the recipes seem easy to follow, the food looks marvelous, and I just might cook something from it.

The Naked Chef Takes Off because Jamie Oliver is just plain adorable (and was only 25 when he wrote this - not his first - cookbook - bloody under-achiever!)

One last note - my total should have been $9.50 because Cold Mountain is a paperback, but the volunteer charged me a dollar. I was tempted to correct her - on principle - but I behaved myself and said "Thank you" instead. I might regret that decision the next time I get a $5 parking ticket for want of a quarter.


  1. It sounds like a day well spent. I look forward to hearing about your experiences with your treasures, Grad........

  2. What a fun day in spite of the stinky cologne man. The only book you got that I have read is Cold Mountain. I didn't like it much and I liked the movie less even though Jude Law resides on my list of hotties :) But the great thing about books is that you might think it the best thing you've ever read. Lots of people liked it. So enjoy it and your other treasures. I look forward to hearing about them!

  3. Graddikins, a truly gob-smacking haul for under ten bucks!!!! And yes, I do worry Jamie Oliver has no OFF switch and that one day he'll just spontaneously combust... which would be a pity, because he does some very good work. His successful campaign in England to improve diabolically bad school lunches makes him a pretty good sort of chap in my book.

  4. The movie Cold Mountain was filmed in Romania, my home country. But I haven't seen it:) I must check out these books as I don't know anything about them. But you can't go wrong with A. Christie. She's one of my favorite authors.

  5. Tinky, so many little time.

    Stefanie, I am very sensitive to smells so it was killing me! And since he was going after the same stuff I was, I couldn't shake him. I knew the minute he was within 5 feet of me without even glancing up.

    Doctordi, gob-smacking you bet! (Might I borrow that phrase? I love it. Gob-smacking...hmmm...must find a way to fit that in a post). And 'ya just gotta love the guy - needs to get that lisp under control, though.

    Andreea, I've always wanted to go to Bucharest. My favorite Christie is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - isn't she the best? I loved your post on The Graveyard Book. Everyone needs to run over to Passionate Booklover right now. It's a lovely blog.

  6. In a library with windows and light being filtered down through oak leaves. Now that is a truly peaceful image to meditate on.

  7. p.s. Believe it or not, when I posted the above comment, I had not yet noticed your link to my website. Thank you! I welcomed and responded to your comment as well.

    Your site is lovely.

  8. Shelley, your blog is so very unique and creative - and so well written. I don't think I've come across anything like it.I haven't had an opportunity to read through all the posts I've missed, but I plan to. Like you say, I can read a few each morning with my coffee. And thanks for the compliment.

  9. Love your blog site.
    Bookend Diaries

  10. Kelly, many thanks. Enjoy yours as well!

  11. I LOVE used book sales. There is a Library near my home that has a book sale every day. It has really helped my collection along!
    Great Post

  12. Alexis, used book sales are a thing of beauty! And, if you don't like the book, you can re-donate it! (I haven't done that yet since it's hard for me to part with a book - even the bad ones!)

  13. hello! i just found your blog and am so glad i did! i am a writer and can totally relate to talking to myself as i often work out kinks in dialogue by saying it out loud. if i happen to do it at the supermarket, i try to pretend to be on the phone but it rarely works. those books sound wonderful!

  14. Priya, I found your blog just recently too and it is lovely. I've tried the telephone ploy myself - with limited success. I don't think we need to worry, though, until we begin to argue with ourselves and then give ourselves the cold shoulder!

  15. Ooh this was so lovely! I felt I was right there with you (and wished I had been, I'd have found people to CARRY those books out of there, never mind a canvas bag). Sounds like you have some wonderful finds there, Grad, and for that price, you can take a few risks with new authors.

  16. I think taking a limited amount of cash into a library sale is essential--it's much too easy to convince yourself to buy as many books as you find interesting because it's for a good cause!