A building full of thousands of books, arranged on tables by genre, author, and type. People everywhere, moving in tides between the volumes, pulling in and out of the crowd to scour the selection. Some search for quantity, taking advantage of the cheap prices. Others look for gift potential. A great many look for school materials. But there are a few that look for that one table of books. Whether it holds classics, sheet music for mandolins, or anthologies of German short stories, it is their table; the table where they zone out the chaos around them as they search for that one book. Maybe it doesn’t even exist. Maybe it hasn’t been written yet. But if it has, surely it’s here, somewhere in the boxes, or underneath the table, hidden until more room is made. The crowd shifts again, around and behind and beside the searcher, unspeaking, their focused eyes looking only at the books. The searcher looks at every title, picking one or two or three volumes up, wondering if one might be the book. But none are. Then, as books are shuffled, something new comes into the picture. Is this it? Look at the cover, turn it over to read the dust jacket. Flip through the pages. A little bit of penciled writing, a few dog-eared pages, not bad on the whole. This is it! Look at the cover again, find the colored sticker. What does the sign say that color means? One dollar! Is that all? But there can be no doubt that the sticker is blue, and why question the sticker-placer? The searcher has become the finder, their bag one book heavier, and their day that much better.
As you can guess from that short vignette, I went to a book sale yesterday. Quite a large book sale, put on annually by the area literacy foundation. It’s really a win-win situation: you can literally build a personal library in a few hours for less than $50, all while supporting a good cause. It was the first time I’d gone in several years, and it was much bigger than I remembered. I spent most of my time hovering around the classics table, and I got 14 books in all:
- A collection of 63 short mysteries compiled by Alfred Hitchcock ($1)
- A book of classical music for piano (for when I finally learn to read sheet music) ($1)
- The published journal of Philip Vickers Pithian, written in the 1770s ($1)
- ‘The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney’ (replacement for a copy I previously had in my collection) ($3)
- ‘Edda’, a Norse book on writing poetry ($1)
- ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, a classic tale of seafaring ($.50)
- ‘Ivanhoe’, a story I only know of because of Wishbone ($.50)
- A compilation of various Oscar Wilde works ($.50)
- A paperback copy of ‘Wuthering Heights’ to take a heavy editor’s pencil to ($.50)
- A paperback copy of ‘Jane Eyre’ to make notes in ($.50)
- ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ ($.50)
- ‘The House of Seven Gables’, because I’ve never read it before ($.50)
- A pocket-size hardback edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, to replace my falling-apart paperback ($1)
- A matching copy of ‘Jane Eyre’, because it was the only other pocket-sized hardback in the lot ($1)
Unfortunately, unlike my searcher, I did not find exactly what I was looking for (paperback copies of my favorite Agatha Christie’s). Instead, I found several books I didn’t know about and picked them up on a whim (the anthology of mysteries, ‘Edda’, the journals of Mr. Pithian, and ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’). I might not like them, but they’re worth a try, and I’ll at least see examples of different writing styles (and maybe get ideas for this year’s NaNoWriMo).
If you hear of such an event close to you, I would highly recommend braving the crowds. It’s is a great way to find new inspirations: in the books, the crowds, and in the experience.