Skip to main content

Observations at a Library Book Sale

Yesterday, the Seattle Public Library held their biannual Library Book Sale at Magnuson Park. This time, my coworker Jessica and I were veterans, having attended last fall. I had wavered about attending, because really, do I need more books? But it only happens twice a year, and it seemed like a fun thing to do and it’s supporting the local library, so we made our preparations.

Having learned last year that competitive book sale shopping is extremely difficult to do once one’s bladder is about to burst, I made sure to go to the bathroom three times. I left my coat at home and tried to wear light weight clothing, I wore running shoes, I did stretches and clipped my fingernails (safety first). Jessica and I were ready earlier than last year, hopped into the car with our bags and eagerly discussed strategies on attacking the room and whether there would be many people lining up before the doors opened, or we would be one of the few groups of lucky anticipators.

We were wrong. The line – at 8.45 – stretched about five hundred people back, around the front of the building and we sheepishly stood in line. It was a quick line, though, and just after 9, we were quickly shuffling towards the welcomingly open doors that held a mixture of heaven and jungle fever. We split off immediately, clutching our bags with purpose, Jessica to the paperback room (where one has to wait in another line, as it only allow 48 people in the room at a time) and I to attack the classic literature section. I left dazedly an hour and a half later.

Observations I made:

1. Expect a queue, respect the queue

2. You may accidentally touch many people and be touched yourself in the course of extreme book buying, but this is outside the realm of ordinary social intercourse and as such, is allowable and forgivable. For example, I stood up into a woman’s butt. I’m not sure if she noticed.

3. Do not be alarmed by losing consciousness and coming to on the floor with a pile of books in your arms.

4. You may squat.

5. Hoarding is allowed and to be expected.

6. There is understood respect for boxes, always ask the person closest to you if it is their box on the floor – if not, dig ahead. If yes, apologize politely and run away to fresher quarry.

7. People who bring their babies in their prams to book sales are idiots. Not only because they obstruct the flow of traffic, but because I have a suspicion that the room could easily become a little Lord of the Flies, and at any time hungry book zombies could turn on infants.

8. Always arm yourself with as many “excuse me’s” and “Pardon me’s” as you can. It becomes a sort of continuous mantra, like an auctioneer.

9. Reaching is not rude. Grabbing is understood. You might never find such a bargain again.

10. No matter how much you pee before going to the Library Book Sale, you will need the bathroom badly by the time you leave.

In conclusion, it was a very successful morning at Magnuson Park. I only spent $35 for 35 books. This includes a complete volume of e.e. cummings’ poetry and various other books I had been hankering for (84 Charing Cross Road, Parnassus on Wheels, book by Halldor Laxness, books by Byatt and Murdoch and Bowen, complete poems of John Betjeman). Erin and Jessica, friends and coworkers, had success and later showed me their lovely new hardbacks, NYRBS and Europa editions. I drove my books home, immediately catalogued them, ran around the room skipping, giggling, and then flopped on the floor to look at them again. If only I had a place to put them.


Ian Woolcott said…
The joy!

I used to attend these sales years back. I had one stalwart friend willing to accompany me and we'd get there about an hour before opening to stand in line and sip coffee and trade snarky comments with others in the queue. One of my favorite purchases was a fantastic 3 vol. facsimile edition of the 1771 Britannica - an edition sold elsewhere for up to $200, but for which I paid a mere twenty. The idea of absenting myself from the bi-annual library sales was, I think, the toughest hurdle I faced when it came time to finally move out of state.

Popular posts from this blog

More Moomins

A friend once said that the thing she loved about Japan was that the Japanese loved every season, and made a great effort to celebrate holidays and seasons with specific rituals. As a person who enjoys holidays, and who finds meaning participating in the ritual of the Christian year, I feel a kinship with the Japanese. As humans, we respond to the larger, uncontrollable mysteries of life with stories, with food, with a renewed sense of connection to each other and to the world around us.

It is easy, with the early darkness and the frost on our windshields and the necessity of coats and thicker socks, to complain about the dying of the year and the coming of winter.

Here is a must-read this time of year: Tove Jansson’s Moominvalley in November. Where her other Moomin books have been characterized by happy bohemianism and quirky, midsummer adventures, this book is not afraid to deal with the stark and empty season that comes once a year.

It is raining steadily upon the tall dark trees. D…

Blast-beruffled plumes

I’ve returned to Minnesota to find it transformed into a Brueghel painting.

Our hunters are gone north or even south, wherever there are more deer. This has been a bad year for deer, threatened by the cold of last year’s polar vortex and the high population of coyotes, which now carry a bounty on their heads.

So, while it’s still autumn in England (I’ve been assured), winter has come. The nights are long, the wreaths are out. I’ve been reading restlessly – Robert Walser and GB Shaw. But some nights, Thomas Hardy feels just right for November melancholia. Here’s ‘A Darkling Thrush’:

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,

Cassandra at the Wedding - Dorothy Baker

The perfect airplane read for a person en route to a wedding, this tautly written 1962 novel about a woman falling apart, coming home to her family’s ranch to derail her twin sister’s wedding. That’s the summary – but obviously it’s about so much more: about the nature of love and obsession, about identity and the self.

Cassandra Edwards, named for the doomed wailer at the gates of Troy, is a student at Berkley, an “Existentialist-Zen-Marxist, Freudian branch. Deviation, rather.” The reader is fully aware from the beginning that Cassandra feels antagonistically about the wedding – she anticipates duties of “tak[ing] over the bouquet while [Judith] received the ring, through the nose or on the finger, wherever she chose to receive it…” She purposefully gets the groom’s name wrong. She plans to stage a “last-minute rescue.”

The isolated family ranch the Edwards family as a self-sufficient unit – emotionally and intellectually. Her alcoholic father, a retired skeptical philosopher who act…