Used Book Sale Review

images-2I love used book sales. Locally, the Schenectady and East Greenbush libraries have great ones. Both are (to quote a local car dealer’s ads) huuuge. Schenectady’s is very well organized by category; while what distinguishes the Greenbush sale is a lot of books in new condition, excellent for gifts.

The latest was Greenbush. It starts on a Thursday from 5 to 8:30 PM. Previously I’ve gone on Thursday, knowing these sales get pillaged fast, so it pays to be early. But books cost $2 on the Thursday ($1 afterwards), the rush hour traffic is terrible, the parking impossible, and the room overcrowded. So this time I decided to go easy and waited till Friday morning.

images-4I’m always amazed at what other people take, often baffling choices. I primarily look for ancient history and archaeology, which few others seem to want. So even on the Friday I still found 43 books, a pretty good haul.

These ancient history books I sell. It started serendipitously years ago when I received a box of such books from one of my customers together with some ancient coins to sell. “What the heck will I do with these books?” I thought. Well, I listed them in one of my coin auctions and they did quite nicely. So ever since, I’ve been buying and selling that stuff.

I also watch for poetry books for my wife, which is generally pointless because she is very advanced and I am a poetry naif (we argue regularly over whether Invictus is a good poem). I saw one general book about poetics that looked promising; I opened it at random and my eye fell on four words: “If Byron had rhymed . . . .“ Not for my wife.

Unknown-1And I also seek books to actually read. At this point, those I see come mainly in two categories: ones I’ve read, and ones I don’t want to read. This time I strangely had a bee in my bonnet for Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, which I recalled had gotten stellar reviews. You’d think a best-selling book like that would turn up, but I didn’t find it. (I did find two more copies of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, a good item for group lots in my auctions. I’d been impressed at how much buzz Schiff was able to gin up for this publication, which was far from the first one about that 2,000 year old gal. I recommended it to one of my book groups; but found it disappointing.

There were innumerable copies of Eat, Pray, Love, another book group book I really disliked. images-6And the tables were just groaning with David Baldacci, book after book after fat book. What is it with David Baldacci? He’s not even on my radar screen. Likewise Dean Koontz, Jodi Picoult, James Patterson; enough of their books to sink a battleship.

But I did find a few: Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs (I’ve reviewed his memoir, Elsewhere); Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife (remembering rave reviews); Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings; and, lest you think I’m highbrow, Alan Alda’s Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, and Maureen Dowd’s Are Men Necessary? (After reading it, I’ll let you know the verdict).

imagesAnd I did snag one true treasure: the rare 1973 first edition of Albany’s O’Connell Machine. Unfortunately lacking the dust jacket; I don’t even own one with an intact dust jacket. (Recently, on the radio news, I enjoyed hearing our new Mayor on some political shenanigans, saying it was just like what she’s been reading about in a book on the O’Connell Machine published back in 1973.)

Talk about ancient history! Makes me feel kind of ancient myself. images-3

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5 Responses to “Used Book Sale Review”

  1. Mark V Says:

    It seems very peculiar that the value of notable books published in the past hundred years often resides more in the dust jacket than in the bound text. But I suppose it’s no more remarkable than the plastic holder and label from the grading service taking priority over the coin described inside the consumer packaging.

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    In all collectible fields, condition is important. The “value” of a book as a collectible is much affected by the presence, and condition, of the original dust jacket. (In the case of my own 1973 book, I was being perhaps a bit cute, but in fact, even after 41 years, it seems to remain important with regard to local politics. The dust jacket was done by an artist who subsequently achieved some cachet, Jenness Cortez; and somehow I do not possess a copy with a good dust jacket.)
    Meantime, for the vast majority of books, the VALUE is in reading them.

  3. sale your books Says:

    Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to
    create a really good article… but what can I say… I
    procrastinate a lot and never manage to get anything done.

  4. Pedro Dunn Says:

    On Amazon.com, when I looked up the author of Albany’s O’Connell Machine, a fantasy book was also listed, along with books on numismatics, and attitude. Is the judge also a fantasist, or is that just the case of somebody else with the same name?

  5. rationaloptimist Says:

    Yes, I wrote them all.

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