The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library (“non profit organization that raises money and awareness for the library”) has an annual book sale to raise funds. It’s at Fort Mason and takes up the entire building. Tables and tables of books with boxes and boxes underneath the tables. Dozens and dozens of volunteers working, handing out maps, cleaning up the tables, restocking, and selling books. Hardbacks are $3 and paperbacks $2. On Sunday, the last day of the sale, all books are $1.
I was nervous to go because I have such a book addiction. I feared I would buy too many; I have so little room left on my shelves.
When I got there I was overwhelmed. Initially I saw everyone there as my competition and therefore the enemy. They all wanted the same books I wanted. They wanted to snatch my books that did not yet belong to me. I looked through tables without seeing anything. I was dizzy. There were too many. After looking for about 20 minutes I realized I was safe. These people were my people. They were readers.
After about 30-40 minutes I was finally able to take in what I was looking at. I started to find some good books. But alas, I was not paying attention; I passed a guy with a shopping cart and inside was a pristine hardback of The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie!! How did I miss that? I had found a first edition of The Satanic Verses but I gave away my hardback of TGBHF to a friend years ago. I could use another one. So I started looking at books with a renewed fervor. I had to find that book. It was a maze and I was getting dizzy again. And then I realized I didn’t need it. Why did I want it to badly? I just wanted to find it to find it. I felt ashamed. I was getting tired and anxious. All over a booksale.
But the thing about being a reader is that every single book is an opportunity to see something you never would, to go somewhere you’ve never been, to meet someone you don’t know. And every book you don’t read is a potential loss. Every book you choose to read is a simultaneous pass on an infinity of books. So seeing so many books is overwhelming. And yes I’ve been in bookstores and libraries but there is something different about a used booksale. Most of these books were already read. Someone loved them. Someone cared for them. And here they are again. Why are they here? For lack of space? Damn small city apartments. For new books? Damn fickle readers. For lack of interest? Damn indolence.
Here is a huge stack of Twilight books. I try not to be a book snob but I can’t help pointing out, there was no stack of Harry Potter books. I guess everyone is holding onto those.
And then a wonderful thing happened—my friend Claire showed up with her friend Emma! We went over a table on opposite sides which allowed us to chat about the books and authors.
All in all, it was a great day and an awesome experience. I will definitely attend the next booksale but I will bring a friend. It was way more fun when Claire showed up with Emma.
I spent $23 and got 10 books and one magazine.
1. The Fall—Albert Camus
2. The Vagabond—Colette
3. The Rotters’ Club—Jonatan Coe
4. The Wine of Youth—John Fante (Blackspring press printing!!)
5. Nabokov’s Dozen—Vladimir Nabokov
6. Fugitives and Refugees—Chuck Palahniuk (the only book I have not read by him)
7. Queen of the South—Arturo Pérez-Reverte (getting ready for holiday/birthday season: a great gift)
8. My Idea of Fun—Will Self
9. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter—Mario Vargas Llosa
10. The Satanic Verses—Salman Rushdie (for Sada)
McSweeney’s Issue No 4—late winter 2000
Some details of the lovely items I purchased.