Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book 'Em, Dano

My hatred of shopping has been well documented. But, as with every rule, there is always an exception and in my case, this comes in the form of book sales. When the annual bargain book sale at comes around, I will go through every entry in my little black book (which contains not phone numbers, but authors and titles) to find hardcovers for the price of paperbacks. So, it should come as no surprise that when the twice yearly Camden County Library sale came around, I anticipated it with the joy usually reserved for brides at Kleinfeld’s sample sale.

With my children once again happily squirreled away with their grandparents (whose main goal seem to be to fattening them for slaughter), I was able to enjoy shopping by myself. Book sales are not for children. The children’s book section is a hotbed of insanity. At this sale, the insanity took place in a tiny, windowless room absolutely packed with tables, adults, children, and strollers. Being at elbow height is not a good vantage point in a crowd. Strollers became low-riders as they groaned under the weight of the works of J.K. Rowling and even the most patient child can only be hit in the head by Disney books so many times. Plus, you haven’t experienced ruthlessness until you’ve watched a woman trying to find the few Junie B. Jones her child doesn’t have. I was lucky to get out with my life and a handful of Little Golden books, a few Step One readers, and one Oh David!

Then, I headed over to the fiction tables – where I stayed for the next two hours. I fondled more spines than a chiropractor as I looked through row after row after row of hardcovers. When I came upon a particularly juicy find (say, the newest Stephen King, still in stores at full price), or a title long listed in my little black book, but never acquired, I actually let out little squeals of excitement. In the real world, this type of behavior is frowned upon, but there, it was just another happy noise. But a quiet, hushed happy noise. This was a library after all.

Book sales are not for the faint of heart. You do not simply wander around, casually browsing, pausing to read a back cover here, a book jacket there, while sipping a latte. That type of behavior will get you trampled and killed. Plastic bags are verboten. Instead, cloth bags are preferred, allowing you to contribute to deforestation in an eco-friendly way. Hoarding is also frowned upon. Even the re-sellers (easy to spot because they scanned every book with an electronic wand) usually only had a box or two of books at their feet. The goal is to skim the titles, take what you like, and move on quickly and efficiently. As such, there is a system to perusing. All of the titles face the same direction and as there are hundreds of books in a row you must keep moving to keep reading. The polite way to get someone to move the hell out of your way was to ask them to “switch” with you. I must have heard this word dozens of times. This also happened beneath the tables, where I would tunnel under and open all the unpacked boxes to unearth new treasures. The unspoken rule was that you always gave the person next to you time to peek into the box, and if there was a bottom row of books, then you would lift the top row in unison. This sounds crazy, I know, but readers are not the most confrontational people, so there was a truly epic level of civility on display.

All told, I bought a case of books for less than the price of a case of beer. My husband even joined in the fun during the second day of the sale and picked up his own baker’s dozen of random tomes. Now I just have to get them all read before the next sale in October. Switch!

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