Thursday, October 19, 2006
A Weekend at the Book Fair
I always figured I’d be the sort of person who had books stuffed in every corner, piled up on the carpet and lined against the wall, I just never figured it would be by the time I turned thirty.
Though living in a modest-sized two bedroom apartment, every square inch of wall space that is not taken by furniture is stuffed with shelves full of CDs, DVDs, and books. By far the books outnumber everything else and are spilling out like an overfilled cup onto the floor of every room in the house. This has been doubly fulfilled over the weekend having gone to the local Red Cross book drive multiple times.
In an annual event the Red Cross holds a book drive at the county fairgrounds. They sell the books in an interesting manner which compels me and my wife to go back and back and back… On Friday they charge a $5.00 entrance fee, but most people pay it due to having first crack at the choice books. All books sell cheaply – hardback for two dollars, paperbacks for a buck – and the best ones go quickly. On Saturday they take away the entrance fee, but sell the books for the same price. The first half of Sunday sees the books going for half price, and by mid-afternoon all books are $5.00 a bag! If there is anything left on Monday, you can take home what you want for the price of the gasoline it takes to get you there.
My wife and I always forgo the Friday pay-to-get-in night and thus headed in early Saturday morning. Arriving five minutes after they opened there was still a long line outside the entrance, waiting to get in. It seems they created some sort of barricade-like thing to harangue folks in, cattle-like, in order to get an adequate headcount.
No mind, the line moved quickly and inside this warehouse of books I went. They divided the books into appropriate subject matter – biographies, literature, crafts, paperback romances and such like, but that’s as organized as it got. Nothing by name or title, so I had to literally sift through the chaff. It was a grand experience though moving sideways alongside the maddening throngs looking for the hidden gems.
I hit up the classics section hoping to fill in my missing pieces of literature. I found a slew of great stuff – War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Ulysses, some Edith Wharton and a whole slew of Charles Dickens. They’ve had a great set of old-looking hardbacks of what seemed to be the entire Dickens catalog. Even at the great price of two bucks a pop, my checkbook wouldn’t allow that package. I held out hope that I’d see it later that weekend when the prices go down.
Moving to the other sections I picked up another large handful of books from the not-so-classics, but fun-to-read category. Like the Pavlov’s dogs of old, I was in full-on salivation mode just looking at all those books.
Being that all the books have been donated to the Red Cross for this sale, they are all old, used worn books which makes it even better in my opinion. Walking into a Barnes and Nobles these days feels sterile to me, like walking into a hospital reception room. It’s antiseptic no matter how cozy they try to make it with their coffee pots and big leather chairs. Not so there. Books lined every corner, people tore into them releasing years-old dust and the smells of a thousand shelves where they have sat for who knows how long. It was a glorious, wonderful thing.
The wife and I piled into line with our arms loaded, $28 in total and more books than I’ll be able to read all year. A rough estimate of what these books would total at a regular store ranges into the hundreds.
There is nothing like a book fair.
Later that afternoon, we decided to go back. My wife had to work on Sunday and wasn’t able to make it for the five bucks a bag deal. Not being satisfied with the morning’s collection, we headed back for more.
We decided on a $10 limit, making it five books a piece. Normally at this thing I go in, grab what I can get and think about the budget later. Setting a limit made it difficult as I had to contemplate each book's pros and cons before I put it in my bag.
That night, our kitchen table filled to the brim, we slept the sleep of kings.
Wife working, I headed back on Sunday with my friend Daniel. Big paper sacks were handed out at the entrance and the whole place was like one giant candy store with hordes of hungry kids running amuck. At five dollars a bag there wasn’t time to contemplate if I really wanted the book. I filled my bag and hoped for the best.
I once again hit the classics, stared at the hardback Dickens and decided it would fill my bag too soon, crossed my fingers that it would last until free day and carried on.
Suddenly Grisham, Koontz, and Sue Grafton’s alphabet series took on a glimmer of enticement. I’m not normally one for the current bestsellers list of easy fiction, but priced so cheap, I couldn’t help myself.
Two sacks later, at ten dollars total I walked out a happy little boy.
Monday, going solo, for the wife had to work yet again, I headed out for one last time. It was madness. All books were free, and the throngs were like a thousand chickens with a thousand missing heads. I pushed my way in and came out with a box filled with books I’ll probably never look at again. Alas, the Dickens collection was gone. Oh well, I've more than enough to line the shelves and keep my reading mind occupied for months to come.
All told we came home with some sixty books and spent less than $50. I have since landed most of them on shelves, though many still lie on the table, the tops of shelves, and on the floor...
I like it this way though. For a home without books just isn’t a home. If I wanted to live in a place that was neat and tidy with knick knacks on the shelves instead of books, I’d live in a hotel. No, I like it just fine - just be patient with me as I spend the next hour deciding on a book to read.