Friday, May 21, 2021

Do you miss library book sales?

I do!  Mind you, there are hundreds of books in this house I have not had time to read.  But there is nothing as delicious as ambling into a used bookstore or going to a library book sale and finding an old treasure, discarded by the library or a patron, that is not available elsewhere.  Alternatively, sometimes one finds an appealing but unknown book or something one meant to read but had not got around to, such as The Goldfinch.  Or a handful of paperbacks to bring on vacation.

The Needham Library, two towns away, had regular book sales prior to the pandemic but rarely yielded treasure (which certainly doesn't mean I left empty-handed; no, indeed).   However, I had a funny experience there about two years ago.  It was a busy Saturday, beginning with a memorial service and including a visit to a friend recovering from surgery 40 minutes away.  In the middle, the Needham Library sale beckoned and I decided I could justify a 15-minute visit because my friend probably needed something to read.  Then, as I was browsing, they announced it was approaching closing time and to fill up your shopping bag for just $5 so, naturally, I had to give myself an extension and check out another laden table.

Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the spine of a book by Jane Casey, a suspense writer I really enjoy.  I found myself going through the following internal monologue:

Look, could that be a Jane Casey book just out of reach?!

But my sister and I must own most of them and we’ve read them all, even ordering them from the UK before they are published here by St. Martin’s/Minotaur.

We wouldn’t have to share our copies . . .

Or I could lend it to the friend I am going to visit!

But didn’t I lend her a book by Jane Casey the last time I saw her?

Yes, I definitely did; surprising she didn’t mention it.

Let me move closer and grab it before someone else does.

Eureka!  It’s a paperback copy of After the Fire!

That’s funny, my copy also had a plastic cover and was the UK edition . . .

It’s MY copy!  How did it get here?

When I opened the book and saw my initials inside, I let out a yelp of indignation that made the volunteer and patron near me back farther away.   I explained to them that it was MY book.  “Did you donate it by accident?” inquired the volunteer kindly.   

“No, I think someone else donated it instead of returning it to me,” I responded with gritted teeth.

In fact, I surmise that the very person I was going to visit must have lent my book to someone in Needham who donated it to the library, as neither of us lives there.  By the time I’d stood in line, paid for my bag of books, and reached her house, I was marveling at the coincidence of my wandering into the book sale and finding my own book and had (mostly) lost my annoyance.  I didn’t tell her what had happened.  After all, a good friend who loves books is hard to find and I got my book back, right?   

A letter I wrote to the Boston Globe recommending Jane Casey was published last December, so if you like mysteries, you should try one of her books!

Once the world reopens, I recommend checking for library book sales near you and maybe you will find a treasure or something you lent to the wrong person! And, yes, I will be a more judicious lender in the future . . .


TracyK said...

This is a wonderful post, Constance. I have not been to any library book sales in years, but I do (or did, before Covid 19) go to a huge annual book sale which lasted for 2 weeks and found way to many books every time I visited.

I love the story about the Jane Casey book and your friend. And I went back and read your letter to the Boston Globe about that series. I am sure I have told you I read the first book but never continued on, but now I am going to have to find a copy of the 2nd book and try it.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

Seriously, lending books can be such a chore. I know I lost several Asterix and Tintin issues (and also, Enid Blyton books) because the borrowers conveniently "misplaced" or lost them. It was hard for me to not get mad about it! But at least this one found you again. Well, you know those *co-incidences* really do happen. 😂

Karen K. said...

That's too funny! I was just donating a book to the Little Free Library outside my daughter's apartment and I saw a cookbook that I recognized . . . and my name was inside! I hadn't used it in years so I gave it to my daughter who had donated it. We both had a good laugh about it.

I do miss book sales but I'm sure it's for the best, as I keep buying books and my own TBR shelves never get less crowded Every year I swear I'll purge it or ONLY read my own books. It never happens.

Lark said...

I can't believe you got your own book back at a library book sale! That is too funny. I would have been both upset and happy. And I REALLY miss library book sales. They used to have big ones here where I live once a year, but now they just have a few shelves in each library where they put out the books they're discarding that you can look over and buy. It's nice, but it's just not the same!

Jeanne said...

What a story! Glad you found your book. When I lend books I often lend out a duplicate copy, and then when (if) it comes back I can lend it to someone else.

Cath said...

What a great story! We don't seem to have library sales here like yours in the US. At least not in my area. I've often read about yours on various blogs and felt very envious.

CLM said...

Well, the UK has boot sales and probably book tables at fêtes, which probably is very similar, right? Some libraries insist on putting their worn-out books in the trash, which I think is terrible. Libraries also buy too many copies of the bestsellers because they know patrons don't want to be on hold for months, and then discard 3/4 of the copies a year later which also seems foolish.

There is a book sale in Connecticut that is such a big deal they used to blast a canon when it was time to open! When I lived in New York, I sometimes took the day off and would take the train to Connecticut to meet a friend with a car, and we would zip off to this book sale, then have lunch somewhere. It looks like they are hoping to hold it this year so my fingers are crossed.

Buried In Print said...

LOL that's a terrific story. I'm so glad to think that the book made it back to its original shelf home, in your care. :) It's the element of the unexpected discovery that I miss from booksales, not the crowded and often-grumpy attendees (not me, of COURSE Heheh).

Test said...

The one I miss was held in a church near my elementary school where my Bluebird group met. It's what started my addiction to 1950s teen literature. I haven't been to it in probably 30 years. Sigh.

Katrina said...

We haven't had library book sales for years here (Fife) they used to be great, but we have an annual Christain Aid booksale in Edinburgh which lasts for a week in various churches and is really good. They're usually in May so the last two sales have been cancelled. I once picked up an old copy of Three Men in a Boat in a secondhamd bookshop, just to see how much they were charging for it as I have the same edition and I was amazed to see that my husband's grandfather had written his name and address in it, almost 100 years earlier. We have lots of his books, but this one must have been loaned out and never returned - of course I ended up buying it to put with the rest of his books.

Ruthiella said...

That is a wonderful story. It made me laugh! I do miss library sales because they are fun to browse and the purchase point risk threshold is usually so low, it makes for adventurous gambles at time and allows me to read outside of what I might normally read. But I have made a nice dent in the unread books on my shelves this past year. Will all that discipline go out the window once things open up again?

I don’t have that many IRL friends who read, but I don’t loan books anymore unless I don’t care if they are returned.

Judith said...

Just goes to show--YOU NEVER KNOW what you'll find at a library book sale!!
How I MISS them!! I have literally boxes of books that MUST go to a library book sale. I do hope for CLUTTER'S SAKE, that my local libraries, at least one of them will have a sale within the next year or so. I'm desperate for a home for some of my books as so many newly beloved darlings have come into the house over the past year or two. I have piles of books in every room all over the house. A serious hoarder's dilemma!