For quite some time now I’ve been trying to read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedomwithout having to actually buy it and give that condescending fancypants any money. A library would seem to be the obvious choice, but my cousin informed me that there is a rather large late fee associated with our old address so I’ve been avoiding it. Then, this weekend, my boyfriend and I headed to the center of town to get breakfast at a coffee shop before walking over to a plant sale where a local community farm was selling heirloom tomato plants. And it just so happened that the library I can’t set foot in was also having its annual book sale that day.
I’d never actually been to one of these book sales before. I assumed it would be filled with books like the ones I donate to the library every year: old textbooks, stuff I inherited and never read, and a dictionaries no one needs anymore. There was a lot of that. I even found myself wondering if some of the books I saw on the tables were mine, but I headed straight for the fiction table and almost immediately spotted a hardcover copy of Freedom. An old man was in my way and he didn’t look like he was in a hurry to move along. He wasn’t like a frail old man or anything. He was tall, and I’d like to think he’s a runner. I say this because I practically had to elbow him out of the way before the book vultures could swoop in and steal my chance to screw Jonathan Franzen out of his royalty.
So here’s the thing about the Welles Turner Memorial Library Book Sale: the patrons are not f*cking around! People come prepared with empty boxes, and tote bags to fill up with piles and piles of books. You can hear couples communicating with each other about their strategies. “Did you check these ones? I’ve already looked at all of those.”
As I moved down the table with my first score under my arm, convinced I had found the only book I’d be getting that day my eyes landed on my next find. Whenever I peruse the shelves at Barnes & Noble while sipping a chai tea, I stop at The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I heard about it on NPR. But I never pull the trigger because I’ve got a pile of books — physical and virtual — at home. I snatched that one up too.
Then as I was walking through the non-fiction section I found a couple more key finds. I spotted — clear across the table — a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing. I don’t usually read writing advice, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about this tome. So I snatched it out from under the book vultures.
Then I stopped at the Self-Help/Psychology table to marvel at how picked over it seemed in comparison with the other tables. I’m not sure if there just weren’t as many books to begin with, or if the good people of my hometown are in need of a lot of help, but that section seemed to pretty empty.
Then I found Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore. This normally wouldn’t be my kind of book, but between reading The Tao of Pooh and hearing Moore on a local NPR show a few weeks back, I decided to give it a shot. (For fifty cents you can’t go wrong.)
I have to say, I won’t be poo-pooing the library book sale anymore — and it’s a good bet that, next year, I’ll be one of those people with empty boxes and tote bags.