Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Oops I Did It Again…and Again…and Again

The Friends of the Jefferson Parish Library Book Sale was this past weekend. I keep telling Steve, “We need to quit going to this thing!” But of course we’re always there when they open the doors on the first day.

I’ve learned to head straight to the history tables. History is still my first love and I’ve noticed that section clears out fast. It’s always filled with all sorts of wonderful books being purged from the libraries because no one has checked them out in two years. I filled two boxes in half an hour. That’s what happens when you are passionately interested in everything from ancient Greece and the Middle Ages to Regency England and World War II. Are there any history books left in the public libraries?

After that I move on to the literature table. Here I browse for nice hardcover copies of paperback classics I’d like to replace with something more durable—and more attractive. This year I found a lovely blue and gold three volume set of War and Peace, nice copies of Caesar’s War With the Gauls, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and Pride and Prejudice, among others. I then look at the poetry, but pickings there are usually pretty slim. This year I found only one nice copy of Renaissance poetry, volume one of a three volume set. I spent forever scrambling around under the table looking for the other volumes in the boxes of books they hadn’t put out yet, but without success (I had to do the same thing—with more success—to get all three War and Peace).

Next comes hardcover fiction. These tables are Steve’s first objective, so he’s already been at work. Here I’m looking for hardcover copies of authors whose books I’ve enjoyed and would like to keep. Sometimes I snag a Pat Conroy or a James Lee Burke, but it’s rare. This year I did find a hardcover copy of Martin Cruz Smith’s ROSE. It was the only one of his books I didn’t have in hardcover, so that made me happy.

After that I’ll cruise the hardcover mysteries, looking mainly for Elizabeth Peters and Ellis Peters. The latter are always purged library copies, and this year there were none. Does no one read Ellis Peters any more? Then it’s on to the health table—this year I got a great yoga book—and the travel table, where I got a couple of neat travelogues on China and Russia (always useful if I decide to set a book in either).

The one table I only glance at, at the end, is what they call Choice Fiction, “choice” meaning—with a few exceptions—bestselling crap. (Hey, it’s my blog and I can be blunt if I want to!) Some of these authors—and I use the term lightly—have a stable of writers that turn out virtually a book a week. The tables are overflowing with what often seems like dozens of copies of the same book. Because these books are “choice” they’re more expensive than the others--$5-6 dollars as opposed to $2-3. And they still sell like crazy. Just not to me.

This is just our first day’s take. We went back again on Saturday, and then dropped in again briefly on Sunday afternoon when everything is half price (this is when I go to the Choice Fiction table and buy Anne Rivers Siddon—I’ll never understand why she’s there because no one else buys her). The question now is, Where in God’s name do we put all these books? There really is going to come a point when we will have surpassed our house's ability to absorb any more books. Looking at all these new boxes, I'm wondering if we're there already. At least this year we didn’t have Danielle with us since she’s down in Florida (and she was very, very unhappy about it, although I did find some things I knew she’d like—a biography of Mark Twain and a lovely boxed copy of Twenty Years After, among others).

It’s an interesting experience, spending all those hours looking at books and watching the book lovers who’ve come to pour over them. But that’s another blog.


Steve Malley said...

We're at capacity now. Need to move to a bigger place, but this one's so awesome -- ten minute bike ride into the city centre, but surrounded by horses and trees...

Can't remember who, but one writer's wife was complaining about his book-buying.

"At least that's my only vice," he said. "It's not like I'm running around with other women or anything."

His wife looked at the piles of books around them.

"Another woman would probably take up less space."

Lisa said...

I am jealous -- but just as a wise recovering alcoholic tries to avoid bars and wild parties where a lot of drinking is going on -- I try to avoid the library sales the same way I can't go into the animal shelters. I want to take everything and everybody home. Having said that, thanks for taking me along on your shopping spree. I enjoyed it almost as much as I would have if I'd gone myself.

Kate S said...

Had to laugh at the boxes, but I can relate.

Don't those people know who Annw Rivers Siddon is? Goodness.

Charles Gramlich said...

I missed it this year, for the first year in a long time. Lately I've been thinking I should just give up on the writing thing and buy and collect books. It's a lot more rewarding.

Chap O'Keefe said...

That's an interesting idea, Charles. I wonder if the prices dealers ask for some secondhand books on the Net are ever paid. A couple of purchases of out-of-print first-edition novels can set you back by more than the publisher's original advance to the author!
I've also seen dealers scooping up the bargains at library book sales and at sales of donated books organized by charities as fundraisers.
The only time I've ever taken advantage of this regrettable situation was when I sold to a dealer a first-edition Ruth Rendell I'd held on to for more than 30 years. The dealer paid me much more than I could earn in a month of writing. I don't know how much he would have sold it for. Who pays these crazy prices, and why?

Bernita said...

Sales like these are the times when I feel pure greed.