Monday, November 3, 2008

Treasure Hunting


Many I know love to canvass thrift stores for home décor goodies or consignment shoppes for dazzling dresses, but I prefer to putter around in the dusty bowels of our ancient J. Paul Getty library and seek out treasures bound in cloth at the monthly library used book sale. Yep, I confess . . . I am a bibliophile in the worst way. Each initial Saturday of the month I wheedle my husband into dropping me off at the threshold to the library basement in a town devoid of parking places for all but the daring or foolish. As an added bonus, I get curbside service when I load in all my treasures – no caves to crawl out of, no mountains to scale, no forests to break from, merely a set of stairs leading to the street level.

Though the doors open for business at 9 am sharp, I prefer to arrive much later. The initial buyers consist mainly of booksellers from the town who seek bulk, cheap, current books they can turn over for a quick profit. With the price structure ranging from $0.10 to $3.00 they find just what they seek. However, while they are scrounging around for business profits they elbow, push, and literally shove other hunters lest they seek the same quest. So, I choose to arrive after the melee and enjoy fewer crowds, incidents, and (alas) choices. Fortunately I seek anything BUT the current, trendy, and easily devoured, so I find PLENTY to excite me.

I used to visit the local booksellers, but after I came to know them here I decided to skip their markup . . . and rudeness. Once I encountered an angry seller at the library sale who wanted my position. I moved away politely (having found nothing of interest in that specific spot) and took up residence where he had formerly stood. I giggled to look at the shelf and find an out-of-print gem of children’s literature, The Velvet Room, in HARDBACK right before my very eyes! I had paid $40 for a used copy to give to Elizabeth for her birthday a few years back. This copy dancing before me cost a mere 50-cents and looked in much better shape. I slipped it into my bag and left the angry man to sift through the dull and cheap. To each his own …

On this past Saturday I awoke to the delicious sound of rain pattering on the roof, which would normally inspire me to grab a book and dive back under the covers. Instead, I remembered it was Book Sale Day and I flew into action. Shortly thereafter I sat in the car clutching my trusty (and strong) book tote. I skipped from car to doorway, waved cheerfully, and vanished into the warren of hallways and rooms stuffed with BOOKS! I popped into the children’s section first and selected a gorgeous Tasha Tudor illustrated Secret Garden (each of my girls will someday take away a copy from our laden shelves, so I can always use one more) and a delightful book from the 20s tracing the history of pottery-making throughout the world. Wow! I could leave now and feel triumphant – but still I journey on.

Next stop, Literary Classics. HUH?!?!?! Gone?!?!?! Self-help paperbacks crowd the shelving that once offered some of man’s greatest thinking. I stood there stunned. I quickly sought out Peggy, the stalwart guide present each sale day, and begged advice on finding the literary riches. She assured me they had not been forgotten or discarded, but merely moved to a “different” location (meaning: out of the way, obscure, reserved for those works rarely sought). Hence I stood in a busy pathway between mysteries and science fiction, being jostled, jounced, and prodded as passersby squeezed through without a glance toward Anthony Trollope or Milton or even the Bard himself. Undaunted I sifted and perused my old friends seeking something new among the old.

After journeying through cookbooks, nature books, art books, poetry, history, and all the rest, I carried a bagful plus an armload back through the maze of rooms into the cashier’s lair. I piled up my purchases which included handbooks on birds and butterflies (well-thumbed and eager to be placed in the girls’ backpacks without fear of mussing the covers), cookbooks on Middle Eastern cuisine, a Tour of European cuisine (a neat “tour-guide” format to food with maps, recipes, and other delicious ingredients), Frugal Gourmet’s Italian and Feast books, Martha Stewart’s Christmas book, a delightful bio-anthology of children’s writers (from 1969 – containing so many of my childhood favorites), a contemplative Walden-esque type read “The Outermost House,” and finally a true gem pictorial/research guide entitled “The Landscape of King Arthur.” I hugged these treasures to heart as I paid the $11.25 tab (less than the cost of a single book and all HARDBACK with the exception of one).

I scurried away to await my chariot, which dutifully appeared out of the billowing rains and whisked me home to the cozy hearth and my favorite chair. Whilst teakettle whistled I readied the tray, set out my treasures, and settled down for an afternoon of winsome travel and study and pure pleasure among the treasure.

13 comments:

Karen said...

I love a good book sale! We don't have here very often, but I'm glad that such a bookworm as yourself has them frequently.

imbeingheldhostage said...

I absolutely cannot wait to get together in person. You are my soul mate.
When we are finished moving every other year, I will decorate my house in books (you know how old ladies sometimes collect cats? I'll fill my house with books-- they smell better).

Flea said...

May I ask a favor? Next sale, would you mind looking for The Hodgepodge Book: An Almanac of American Folklore? It's been out of print for a long time. And is one of my childhood favorites. The library I visited to read it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Becky said...

How I wish I could have joined you but I was called to an important mission to the grocery store so that we may have something besides ketchup for dinner. I did have time to peruse a few thrift store selves ;-)

Karen Deborah said...

My favorite way to spend a day with you. It was a definite jackpot day. I'm trying to think if I have ever read The Velvet Room? I love having you be my librarian and providing lists of good reads. Even better the old days when a strong book bag showed up at the door with a pile of adventures to enjoy.

Britt-Arnhild said...

A bibliophile in the worst way????? I will call it in the best way! You really found some great stuff here Debbie.

The Tasha Tudor illustrating the Secret Garden sounds heavenly. I have always loved Secret Garden.....and of couse even more now when I am in India, visiting the Maharaja's Palace and more :-)

Elizabeth said...

I never get to go to booksales. I hardly go to the library as it is difficult to lug the stroller up all the stairs of our local library.

I love reading though, and thankfully have a small library of my own here at home. I am also trying to instill a love of books in my children so each of them gets a book from me at least at Christmas, and the little ones get one for birthdays as well!

Sounds like fun! :)

Mim said...

Debbie
Books are the best!
Thanks for your kinds words today.
Yes a difficult week for us.
Mim

noble pig said...

What fabulous finds you found! I love how you scour the shelves for your treasures and find exactly what you look for!

Ruth MacC said...

Ah Debby,
your writing style makes me smile, not a bad thing! You turn something plain and uneventful into something colourful!

Sharon said...

From one bibliophile to another...LOVED this post!~Sharon

Carrie said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this bibliophilic post! Your taste in books is quite similar to my own.

Theresa said...

Wow! What treasures you found! I wish I had something like that. I did have fun finding some books at Toad Hall Book shop in N.C. and was happy to get those for .99-2.00, but your buys are even better!