All Hail the Library Book Sale

Rachel Manwill

Staff Writer

Rachel Manwill is an editor, writer, and professional nomad. Twice a year, she runs the #24in48 readathon, during which she does almost no reading. She's always looking for an excuse to recommend a book, whether you ask her for one or not. When she's not ranting about comma usage for her day job as a corporate editor, she's usually got an audiobook in her ears and a puppy in her lap. Blog: A Home Between Pages Twitter: @rachelmanwill

Confession: I like to own my books. All of them. I like seeing the spines on the shelves to remember the books I’ve read and to decide what to read next. I become quite the poet about all my books. It’s cheesy, but any good book lover who dreams of one day living in a house with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and one of those ladders that runs on tracks around the room understands my sap.

However, this book owning quality makes me a stranger to my local librarians. I do love the library. I love the smell, I love the plastic covers that crinkle when you open the books, I love that the books are worn in. But I don’t like giving them back. And then the pressure of trying to finish a book before the due date?? My typically responsible(ish) self tends to go all teen rebel and just won’t finish a book that’s due because The Man says I have to. I understand how dumb this sounds, trust me, but I listened to a little too much of The Ramones in high school and sometimes it wells up in the strangest of places. For example, I’ve extended the due date on the one book I’ve got checked out from the library right now, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, three times even though, I swear, I really do want to read this book. I have a feeling the book will be returned unread, and I will immediately regret being such a tool.

But I do love libraries. I love their role in a community, and I love what they do and what they provide and I’m happy to support that in any way I can. Which is why I adore my local library. First of all, how freakin’ cute is it?

Second, they throw a library book sale every second Saturday of the month. And the selection is massive. Most months, I haven’t made it down there (usually because of weddings or other plans), but this weekend, I was ALL OVER IT. They had a lot of fiction, and as I browsed the tables of beautifully worn paperbacks and hardcovers missing their dust jackets, I nearly broke into song à la Beauty. Best part? Mass market paperbacks were 50 cents, everything else was a buck.

I often discuss being a “conscientious book consumer” on my own blog – not shopping Amazon, buying local and indie when I can, only shopping B&N when I need to – and buying books from a library sale is one of the best ways I can think of to make my book-owning side play nice with my library-supporting side. Wanna see what I got?

Top to bottom:

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Stet: An Editor’s Life by Diana Athill
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Earthly Possessions by Anne Tyler

All for $5.

I promise this isn’t just a post bragging about what a savvy shopper I am. I have a larger point, I swear.

My point is this: as I shopped the sale on Saturday, I felt truly like I was actively participating in and contributing to my community with the loudest voice I’ve got – my money. Did I need all six books? No, most definitely not. But I supported a worthy cause, mingled with my neighbors, chatted with a librarian about whether I would enjoy The Mists of Avalon (she talked me into it), and recommended one of my favorite authors to a fellow shopper (John Irving – and she bought three of the books I suggested). In a city (Washington, DC) where everyone is from someplace else and it’s easy to feel isolated, even though everyone spouts activism and participation, being able to participate in my community in a small but significant way gave me lots of warm fuzzies.

Have you Participated-with-a-Capital-P lately?