Library Sales: My True Weakness

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

For the most part, I’ve really embraced the whole ereading thing. I prefer the experience of rReading. I like to have lots of books on the go and an ereader is great for that. And I’ve moved across Canada twice (and Canada’s really big, dawg) and I hope to have the opportunity to make more big, exciting moves in my life — so more ereading, and fewer paper books to move, makes a lot of sense for my life. Bring on the ones and zeros. I’m a convert.

But there is still a place in my life where I make very stupid book choices. Where I can be trusted to buy big heavy hulking books that go against my entire philosophy of reading these days.

Treachery, thy name is library book sale.

I worked in antiquarian books in my misspent youth, and I know that the ex libris title is not a sought after category of books, generally. Library books are synonymous with mishandled, stained, damaged, and disrespected. We’ve all had the totally gross experience of finding food or worse ground into the pages of a library book. Icky.

But if you’re careful, the finds at a library book sale can be utterly magical. Like, say, this Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare my husband and brother spotted for me at a library book sale a few weeks ago.


This 1600-page tome catalogues all of Shakespeare. All of it. Do you know how many times Shakespeare uses the word “cock?” Cuz I do. 28 in the singular, thrice in the plural. Oh, and he used “thrice” 87 times. It is so awesome to be able to look that up. SO AWESOME.

And the real reason why the library book sale is such kryptonite to me? That book was TWO DOLLARS. TWO OF THEM. It’s like having the Internet of Shakespeare living in my house and it was 1/3 of what I pay for an almond milk double caf mocha. Now I can have my pretentious yuppie coffee while I look up all the ways Shakespeare use the word “fool.” How great is that?

I know other Rioters have these weaknesses. Care to share your best book sale find with the class?