Warning: this post contains graphic descriptions of large quantities of books at cheap prices.
I volunteered at my county library's annual book sale today and helped unbox books and arrange them on tables. Before you commend me for my civic-mindedness, remember the Big Perk here: first dibs on the books (500,000 under one roof, according to the newspaper) before they go on sale to the public.
I've been to this sale before, but always as a customer and always on the weekend, after the best books had been grabbed by the early birds. By contrast, the scene today was almost pornographic: a former discount department store lined front to back, side to side, with tables of books, many of them very lightly read. Volunteers got to grab paperbacks for 50 cents (including trade paperbacks) and hardbacks for two bucks.
I get the shivers just remembering it.
I didn't find anything truly obscure (no $700 Hale books here, I'm afraid), but I did find a lot of things on my wish list. Among others, I brought home several of Alison Weir's biographies, five Jean Plaidys, a copy of Stella Tillyard's Aristocrats that appeared never to have been read, a copy of Jane Dunn's Elizabeth and Mary that also looked pristine, and a copy of Dorothy Dunnett's King Hereafter that will probably take me years before I get around to reading it but nonetheless is adding a certain respectability to my shelf tonight.
I'm due to go back Friday, but I'm seriously tempted to go back tomorrow. (Did I mention I get to wear a sexy orange T-shirt with VOLUNTEER on it?)
It was rather funny to see what tables people gravitated to. General Fiction (including historical fiction, which, alas, does not have its own table) attracted a great many unpackers, as did the Juvenile, History, and Biography tables. When I left in the early afternoon, the Horror tables hadn't been touched yet (evidently too scary an experience). Strangely, the Romance tables also had yet to be unpacked. Maybe the romance readers showed up in the afternoon, after a morning of luxuriating in their king-size beds.
Some more thoughts:
I personally unpacked six copies of Bill Clinton's autobiography, and there were another dozen or so on the Presidents table the last time I looked. Most of them were pristine ex-library copies, suggesting that whoever decided that each branch needed multiple copies needs to reconsider the next time a President writes a book.
The books were sorted before they were sent over for unpacking. The sorters were evidently of two minds about James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. Of the dozen or so copies I noticed, half were in fiction, the other half in biography. (There wasn't a special table for Rip-Offs.) You can get a copy for 50 cents if you really want one, but this is one I'd save for Bag or Box day (Sunday), where you can get it even cheaper.
Speaking of memoirs, there were a lot of them (presumably genuine) on the Biography table. In fact, it seems that everyone in whom I'm not the least bit interested has written one.
Finally, almost every fifth book I unpacked for the Biography table had something to do with Princess Diana. This made me think either (1) there cannot possibly be anything left to say about Princess Diana or (2) I should get cracking and try to find something to say about Princess Diana.