A box of books

Yesterday (Thursday) I thought it would be nice to leave the house. I’d been a hermit for too long, so, I suppose, it was high time that I went out the door and into the world.

So I went to the Augustana College library book sale.

Hey, I never said how far into the world I was going.

I got there at five minutes past noon. Since it opened at noon, I had thought I would be venturing in during that quiet, half-assed retail time that I had grown to love while working at the mall — the time shortly after opening when nobody in the city really even knows that your store is open. Unfortunately, this was no ordinary sale. This was a book sale. And it had been advertised.

Aside from nearly becoming lost (I had to enter through the “back door” and walk through a hallway lined with offices; about half way down I had to double back and make sure I was in the right part of the building) I found that this book sale was more than I had bargained for. Meaning: there were a lot of people there.

A lot? This room is no bigger than the typical college classroom, though 50-60 people were already swarming around thirteen odd tables, each person with a box, and each box with ten to twelve books already claimed. After five minutes, this place was already seeing the ravages of hungry book-lovers. Everyone, from young to old, was grabbing books, stashing them away in their short boxes and reaching over each other to glance at a book across the table. Clerks were frantically pulling more boxes (more boxes!) from under tables and presenting them to those whose arms were already overfilling. Every table was swarmed – two tables of paperback fiction were reduced to one in the time I was there, and a travel book section had been picked over so all that was left was a handful of texts in German.

I noticed a wide array of people, a true cross section of the type of people who, I guess typically, attend these random sales. Over in the corner was “Old Man Book Buyer,” a hobbled seventy-ish grandpa with a single western in his hand. And over by the soft-cover bodice rippers was “Serial Romance Lady,” who, if rumors are correct, has every Harlequin romance from #132 and on (but you’d better believe she’s got a list in at every used book store in the region requesting the ones she’s missing.)

While rummaging through the history section, I came across “Over-Loaded College Kid,” the Augie freshman who had a box full of “smart” books that he may or may not ever read. This was a phase I also went through in college, where I would raid the used bookstore my mother ran (a perk was free used books of all genres) and grab Dante’s The Inferno and some obscure Elizabethan history textbook and put them on my bookshelf as if I actually had the balls to start reading them.

Actually, I think I still do that.

Anyway, this guy had a stack of Russian poetry, a couple books on Western civilization and its ills, and, of course, a copy of the Torah. If he weren’t wearing glasses, I would have thought he was posing.

“Middle-Aged Bargain-Hunting Soccer Mom” who asked, predictably, if there were any copies of The DaVinci Code, caught my attention next. There weren’t any, somebody told her. “Eager Science Nerd” got excited when she found some old chemistry textbooks, while “Grandma ‘Cooks-For-Twenty’” rustled through some church cookbooks. I scrambled from table to table, hoping, in vain, that I would be able to still find something worthwhile, all the time thinking “I’d better get here at 11:30 in the morning next year.”

Eventually, after looking at every table twice (some three times, I swear!) I headed to the checkout, where my seven books came to the bargain-busting price of $4.50. I had seen some great books that I had regrettably left (knowing I would never have read them) but I was afraid of looking like those I have just ridiculed – like someone who would stop at nothing to get the book that was two tables away.

I guess, maybe I’m afraid that I’m going to, someday, become one of them, one of the teeming masses whose names I make up and put in quotation marks. Someday, I fear, I will be at the 20th annual Augustana College Library book sale, with box in hand, fighting through the hordes in an effort to secure that dusty copy of Dave Eggers’ And You Will Know Our Velocity, a book I may, by that time, have already read, but still… I’ll really need to have it.

Ah… whom am I kidding? I’m already half way there. I mean, really – I actually went to the book sale in the first place.


As you may have already noticed, I have an official “blog name,” one that’s more than just “MYNAMEblog.” I was looking for something that was descriptive of what I’m trying to do – trying to write for writing’s sake with a hope that someday I’ll be able to do something with whatever skills I develop. So I took a short line from a quote:

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

I liked it – and really, if I write stuff and nobody reads it, it’s not worth anything. And it’s not worth my time, I guess. So I appreciate the feedback I’ve gotten. Maybe someday I’ll be doing this full time.

This was lovingly handwritten on April 16th, 2005