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.


bigsip said...

There's a new used book store close to us now. We went there the other day and got 5 like-new books for under $8! It's a dream, man!

Jamison said...

Ive caught myself reading more. I will pick up almost any book i see and take it home and read it. There are always books here at school being given away, and Ive even taken books from teh library at church and read them (Reading one now written in 1979 by some shrink called "the friendship factor.")

Anyway, i like books... they are nice.

kellieja said...

I love old things. I am fascinated with them.

I have a confession to make. I go to the thrift store to buy old books with no intention on reading them. Is that wrong?
I will hunt out the oldest, worn book on the shelf and buy it. I like to look at them on my shelves and on the floor and under the table and wonder what those books have been through.

I love it

Jamison said...

I have 5 books like that Kelli. Bought them at a thrift store and used them for decor.

bigsip said...

Old books are pretty. They have a smell you can't duplicate.

I have some old books I use for decor, too. But, I've read most of them.

Brewster said...

Sometimes I think about getting into the really old stuff, but then I want to collect things like first editions and that gets really expensive so then I'm just back to stuff I want to read.

Jamison said...

KelliJ sent me some pics from her verizon phone to my email... one was of the pope (art she asks...?), another of "nuggets' (Being old books in her home i am assuming) and another of an old movie reel to reel camera... it being old = cool.

I thank thee (bowing)

kellieja said...

yeah my nuggets were referring to the books I picked up at goodwill today. Mats blog made me want to go buys some books. Out of respect for the books and book lovers of the world, I will read some of them.

The reel to reel camera was cool but goodwill was asking too much for the condition it was in so I had to pass.

Charlie said...

So, did you get the Dickens set or not?

Jamison said...

DARN IT! I TOLD you guuys it was about time for a stubbs one liner! Unfortunately, i was expecting him to comment on the blog law de da...

Funny thing, he was in my dream last night doing his typical, state-the-obvious thing...

I had a dream i had just gotten a pool installed. It was filling up with water and stubbs comes and stands in the pool... then says:

"So, you got a pool?"

bigsip said...

You should have known he'd go for the path of least resistance.

I don't think I've seen Charlie post to anything but a top thread yet...

Brewster said...

No, the Dickens were gone on free day. Though I did nab a bunch of his novels, they just aren't in a nice set now.

mullinz8 said...

Brew, you’re a nut.

If there was one last thing that I wished I’d gotten after my father passed away it would have been his book list. The last couple of years of his life he started keeping track of the books he wanted to reread and buy. This list also contained the books he had just finished. As they were taking the man away from his house on a stretcher he insisted they grab his current read, sadly enough they forgot his reading glasses. I have some books that he kept from his youth like Journey to the Center of the Earth and leather bound copies of Les Mis, Arabian Nights and a few others. When my brother and I interned his ashes I placed a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land beside him, it was his favorite book and for him very fitting. The mans world revolved around books, I can’t remember him without a book.
Brew, don’t become my dad, being well read is fine but can make for a lousy human being.

There are a few books that I like to hold onto like art books, religious study material and some odds and ends but I am not a book collector.

I just picked up “We were soldiers once, and young too…” and it’s turning out to be a nice read. Mel Gibson did the movie version a few years ago and I’m looking forward to seeing it again after I read the book.

I’m glad that had fun.

Brewster said...

Truth is I am a collector. I love having things - be it books or cds or movies. I have something like 50+ cds of the grateful dead, live in concert from the year 1977.

Rightly you could ask why? Does the music really change that much? Really I haven't listned to them all nor do I spend my time trying to.

I have them because I want to collect all of the shows from that year because it sounds cool.

I love having books lining my shelves. I love possessing them, seeing them, smelling them, touching them.

My precious.

I also love that when I finnish a book I don't have to drive to the library or book store to pick out my next one. I go to my living room and browse my shelves. I've got books from every genre and time period so I have lots to choose from.

I'll always keep the classics and favorites because who knows when I might want to read them again. The crappy ones, I don't know, I guess I'm obsessive. Someday I'll get rid of them, maybe.

mullinz8 said...

I can understand collecting live shows from the Dead and other like bands because each one is different.

I’ve known a lot of people who have gone the route of the cinder block and plywood shelving and couldn’t ever see myself going that route.

I sort of like the idea of heading to the library and looking for a new book. I think of the library as my own personal book depot and I’ve got so many books that I’ve hired a staff to keep them organized because my own altruistic nature allows the rest of the city to borrow them when I’m not reading them.

I tend to think of some peoples obsession with collecting books, not yours of course, as the male equivalent of the crazy old lady with 75 cats in her living room. There is no way she can take care of or tend to them all but there is some sort of comfort found with all those potential friends to distract her from the rest of the world.

Brewster said...

Don't get me wrong, I still go to the library, often. Just like I still roam the book stores. My books are like back up.

I won't use cinder block bookshelves.

bigsip said...

I'd love to have a complete, personal library someday.

I'd build shelves all around, furnish it with wood trim and comfortable leather, and make it a retreat.

I just have to have a comfortable and uncluttered area in which to read. It helps me to concentrate and truly enjoy the experience.

Brewster said...

Wait, you can understand the dead, but not books? Each book is different too ya know. They don't all tell the same story. And who's to say I won't read the books again?

I'd love a big library too. One of those fancy ones you see in the movies owned by rich people with butlers.

Maybe I'll get one right after I build my deluxe movie viewing room.

I can read just about anywhere, cluttered or not. THe only thing that distracts me is people talking loudly and then only if they are talking about something I find interesting.

I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in my old work's break room and it was always filled with miscellaneous folks chatting it up.

mullinz8 said...

What I don’t get is holding on to the same book if it’s just an “alright” read for years and years.

With music, as I guess books are too, you can pick something up that you didn’t notice before.
I’ll partially retract my previous statement

I will hold on to books that mean something to me or something I connected with but other than that I’m fine to let it go without a second thought.

I collected comics for years, I loved those books. Now I have a ½ box of the titles that I want to keep and the rest are up for sale. I tried to get rid of them a few years ago but no one would buy them for what they were worth. Then again those folks are in the business to make money not buy my pristine and mint collection of X-men and Samurai Santa

How do you house your books now?

Brewster said...

It has been greatly exaggerated on how many books I have that are just ok. I do have a good chunk of mass paperbacks in the line of Grisham/King et. al, I keep them because once in awhile I am in the mood for something breezy. There are a handful of those that I have read and not gotten rid of for no other reason than I am a pack rat.

Most of my books are what we call classics and even the ones I've read, I keep due to some concept of being scholarly.

My wife has a collection of rotten teen stories and she refuses to let me get rid of them for sentimental reasons.

I keep them all on bookshelves scattered through the home, and in the in-laws attic.