Book Sale Musings

I’m back from helping set up the tables for our county library system’s annual book sale (over 500,000 books were on sale last year, and I’d be surprised if the amount was not the same this year), and I’m knackered, as my transatlantic friends would say. Flinging around 50-pound boxes full of old copies of The Thorn Birds is hard work, let me tell you!

As I said last year, I do this not only because I’m civic-minded, but because of the Big Perk for volunteers: cheap books and the pick of the litter. I came home with 20 books today, and no doubt I’ll find something to carry home tomorrow.

Because today was a school holiday, I took my son with me, which allowed me to say things aloud like, “Wonderful, another copy of The Da Vinci Code,” and “Where are all of the Jean Plaidys?” without being thought too flamingly eccentric. Anyway, in no particular logical order, here are a few thoughts I saved for this blog:

I saw at least one ex-library copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on almost every table for which I unboxed books. All looked in excellent, unread condition, which either means that we in Wake County, North Carolina have no taste for literary historical fiction or just that the library thought we loved literary historical fiction so much that they ordered 30 copies too many.

When lining up books on adjacent tables and having to find a book that won’t slip through the crack between tables, nothing works better than a James Michener or a Colleen Mccullough novel.

Had I wanted to, I could have come home with a nearly complete set of the works of Bernard Cornwell. I really should try one, since there are so many of his books.

Last year, I saw dozens of nonfiction books on Princess Diana. This year I saw only about five.

In the biography section, I found a Henry V biography nestled qutie cozily next to one of Richard III. Sadly, nothing appeared on Henry VI or Henry VII. Henry VIII and his wives, however, were more than adequately represented and accounted for a generous part of my own purchases.

In the sorting room at the library, there needs to be a sign stating, “The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George is not nonfiction.”

Toward the end of my day, I did duty over at the dreaded “Unsorted” tables, where everything that was donated or discarded too late is lumped together (children’s board books and Karl Marx shared the table I unpacked). I found Caroline Weber’s What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution over there and took it in the history section, thinking there it might find a happier home there than amid the Silhouette romance novels it was resting near. Then I remembered that I had paid the full cover price for the hardback and kicked myself.

If you donate a 2004 guide to picking a college to the library in 2007, the library sale volunteers are not going to be leaping over tables and pushing each other aside to claim it for their own. Trust me on this one.

Children’s books are unwieldy, slippery, nonuniform in size, and quite difficult to arrange neatly in rows on tables. The already curmudgeonly should avoid the juvenile section.

My new books will probably have to go on the shelves in the garage. If I did not have so many books in the garage, I could quite possibly be like my neighbors and keep my car in there. But do I really want to do this?


8 thoughts on “Book Sale Musings”

  1. Then I remembered that I had paid the full cover price for the hardback and kicked myself.

    Oh boy, does that sound familiar! I can’t count the number of times I’ve spotted a $2.50 hardback of something I bought full price, and winced. I might feel better if I’d actually READ the books before copies made their way to the FOL to be sold cheaply. I’m REALLY trying to limit my book buying right now and to rely on the library sales more.

    So … did you find any Jean Plaidys? I snagged quite a number of them at my FOL sale to post at PBS. I also had a conversation with a woman trying to complete her set of the Plantagenet saga.

  2. The pick of the litter – I’m just a bit green now. 🙂

    German garages a no good places for books, to cold, full of cobwebs, and sometimes wet. Cellars work, though, if you chase the spiders out regularly. Mine is warm and dry. But I don’t even keep many books there.

  3. Susan Higginbotham

    Gabriele, I think the spiders would keep me out of the cellar! (Though some do lurk in our garage, and our dog once found a tiny snake in there.)

    Felicia, I didn’t have much luck in the Jean Plaidy area, sad to say. I found one novel that I’d read but didn’t have a copy of, and that was it. I was hoping that some of her harder-to-find books, like the French Revolution ones, would be there, but no such luck.

  4. Oh, mine are well trained. ‘Anyone who isn’t in a dark corner at three will end up in the vacuum cleaner. And take those cobwebs with you.’ 🙂

    Though there’s at least one lazy sod who doesn’t get her web in in time.

  5. I’m forced to regularly cull my book collection. I console myself by adding new ones in the newly vacated shelves.

    I wish I could say, pick a few up for me please!

  6. “Then I remembered that I had paid the full cover price for the hardback and kicked myself.”
    I know that feeling well.

    How does the library decide what to sell off? Just wondering if the absence of Jean Plaidys is because they haven’t got any, or because they’re too popular with borrowers to sell?

  7. Susan Higginbotham

    Last year, they had quite a few ex-library Plaidys at the sale. I think these were books that were either getting worn out or books that were low circulating. A couple of the ones I saw this year were books that have recently been reissued by Crown.

    Our library will buy a great many copies of popular books when they first come out, then sell the excess copies after demand for the book has died down.

  8. That’s so great that you volunteer at your public library book sale, and you should get “pick of the litter” for doing it. At my old library, we couldn’t get enough volunteers, so mostly staff did it.

    We don’t have an annual sale here in this system, but rather an ongoing sale every day. We get so many donations that it’s really better to do it that way. And yes, the staff like looking through the stuff before it goes on the sale table. Most of what’s out there hasn’t even been culled from our own collection. We’re hanging on to our Plaidys thus far!

    BTW, I did my graduate work at UNC-CH, wondered if you’re related to a Dr. Higginbotham who is or was in the History Dept.?

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