How To

The Library Book Sale Survival Guide

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Anna Boisen

Staff Writer

Anna is a violinist and lifelong book lover. A non-native Virginian currently attending graduate school in New York, her hobbies include thrifting, drawing, wishing she was at the beach, and of course reading. Sci-fi, fantasy, and Jane Austen novels, sequels, and retellings hold a special place on her bookshelf and in her heart.

It’s Tuesday afternoon. You pop in to the library, all aglow in the knowledge that you’re adhering to your self-imposed book buying ban. No more buying books and being afraid to read them (what if you don’t like it? You spent hard-earned money on that!) No more ignoring books you own in favor of the ones that are due at the library. You used to be a thrifty, savvy bargain book hunter, but now you’re a self-confessed library ghoul, because let’s face it, you’re running out of both money and space. Hold on now, what this? No, it can’t be…It is! The Library Book Sale.

“This is fine,” you think to yourself as you experience unprecedented levels of gravitational pull down the side hallway. “I can be sensible.” (Your feet are now barely touching the carpet as the cunning magic of the Book Sale pulls you ever faster towards your doom.) “I’ll just have a quick browse, no big deal, I’m really good at controlling my book buying.”

You round the corner. Your heart plummets as you see the riches on offer. There’s no hope of getting out of here empty-handed, at least not without some serious help.

Welcome to the Library Book Sale Survival Guide.

Step 1: don’t panic

This is Very Good Advice. Panicking will get you nowhere. You’ll just end up impulse buying stacks of books and building a guesthouse out of hardcovers in your backyard. It’s also staring you in the face on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Clearly this book is helpful and relevant. You should get it.

Step 2: Be picky

Take the time to look through each shelf of the library book sale. Feel free to examine covers, read blurbs, or google the order of a series. That vampire hunter novel looks fun, but it’s the second in the series—skip it. You’ve heard good things about this author, but you know the library has a copy—skip it. You don’t read a lot of mysteries—skip it. Wait, is that Agatha Christie? Agatha Christie is one of your personal exceptions, you should TOTALLY get it. Look how pretty the cover is! And there’s another one, get that too. And what’s this? Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains? That sounds cool, and the reviewers compared the author to Christie, and you do love female detectives…better add it to the pile.

Okay, now keep going! You’re doing a great job.

Step 3: be practical

What are your hobbies? Is there something you want to learn? This is a great chance to stock up on instructional books that are usually super expensive. Plus they’re useful, and therefore shouldn’t be count towards your ban, right? The whole reason you set it up was because you were spending too much money on books you never read. Nobody reads cookbooks cover to cover anyway. It’s a totally different situation.

Still, better pace yourself. Fancy french cooking isn’t your thing, and neither is low-fat baking. Leave those alone. Probably someone will love an entire collection of Southern Living recipe compilations, but you don’t need them. Wait, what’s that? Three different pasta-themed cookbooks? Look closer!  One is about ravioli and lasagna (SCORE! You’ve been wanting to make your own ravioli!) and the other two are about different sauces. Okay, take the ravioli cookbook and one of the sauce ones.

See? This isn’t so bad. You’re putting books back left and right like a money saving machine!

step 4: don’t be afraid to start a pile

If your books are getting heavy and there’s no one else around to steal from your collection, feel free to stash them by the register while you keep looking. It’s okay, you’re not committing to buying them all, you’re just cleverly avoiding the heavy lifting. This way you’re not worrying about balancing a teetering pile of books in your arms and can devote your brainpower to making intelligent choices about which books to buy and which to leave.

Step 5: look for books already on your tbr

If you already know you want to read it, there’s no harm in getting it. Sure, you can’t afford to buy your entire TBR at full price, but this book sale is for the library. It would be rude to leave empty handed. So go ahead and pick up that copy of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. And look, a copy of The Bone Witch! DEFINITELY keep that one, you’ve read such good things! How exciting. But wait…put down The Three Body Problem. It doesn’t matter how good it was, you’ve already read it. Be strict with yourself and let someone else discover the magic. Keep moving! (But maybe check back on half-price day.)

Hold up, are those four different Jane Austen retellings? And they’re not even all Pride and Prejudice–themed?? You need them. No question.

Step 6: weed, pay, and get out!

Now that you’ve thoroughly examined each and every shelf of the library book sale, it’s time for a final sort of your findings. On second thought, one of these Poirot novels looks pretty worse for wear, you can put that back. You also probably don’t need the second and third books in the Heroes of Olympus series, since you’re not planning on a reread. Put those back too. What’s this you spy on your way back to the Young Adult section? The Marriage Bureau for Rich People…seems interesting, and look how good you’re being, replacing three whole books! You deserve a treat. Bring it back to the register with you.

Now quickly, before you find anything else, pay for your books and go home. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? In and out in less than two hours, and you only ended up with 12 books…


Better luck next time.