I'm back from helping set up the tables for our county library system's annual book sale (over 500,000 books were on sale last year, and I'd be surprised if the amount was not the same this year), and I'm knackered, as my transatlantic friends would say. Flinging around 50-pound boxes full of old copies of The Thorn Birds is hard work, let me tell you!
As I said last year, I do this not only because I'm civic-minded, but because of the Big Perk for volunteers: cheap books and the pick of the litter. I came home with 20 books today, and no doubt I'll find something to carry home tomorrow.
Because today was a school holiday, I took my son with me, which allowed me to say things aloud like, "Wonderful, another copy of The Da Vinci Code," and "Where are all of the Jean Plaidys?" without being thought too flamingly eccentric. Anyway, in no particular logical order, here are a few thoughts I saved for this blog:
I saw at least one ex-library copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on almost every table for which I unboxed books. All looked in excellent, unread condition, which either means that we in Wake County, North Carolina have no taste for literary historical fiction or just that the library thought we loved literary historical fiction so much that they ordered 30 copies too many.
When lining up books on adjacent tables and having to find a book that won't slip through the crack between tables, nothing works better than a James Michener or a Colleen Mccullough novel.
Had I wanted to, I could have come home with a nearly complete set of the works of Bernard Cornwell. I really should try one, since there are so many of his books.
Last year, I saw dozens of nonfiction books on Princess Diana. This year I saw only about five.
In the biography section, I found a Henry V biography nestled qutie cozily next to one of Richard III. Sadly, nothing appeared on Henry VI or Henry VII. Henry VIII and his wives, however, were more than adequately represented and accounted for a generous part of my own purchases.
In the sorting room at the library, there needs to be a sign stating, "The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George is not nonfiction."
Toward the end of my day, I did duty over at the dreaded "Unsorted" tables, where everything that was donated or discarded too late is lumped together (children's board books and Karl Marx shared the table I unpacked). I found Caroline Weber's What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution over there and took it in the history section, thinking there it might find a happier home there than amid the Silhouette romance novels it was resting near. Then I remembered that I had paid the full cover price for the hardback and kicked myself.
If you donate a 2004 guide to picking a college to the library in 2007, the library sale volunteers are not going to be leaping over tables and pushing each other aside to claim it for their own. Trust me on this one.
Children's books are unwieldy, slippery, nonuniform in size, and quite difficult to arrange neatly in rows on tables. The already curmudgeonly should avoid the juvenile section.
My new books will probably have to go on the shelves in the garage. If I did not have so many books in the garage, I could quite possibly be like my neighbors and keep my car in there. But do I really want to do this?