I 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.
I’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.
And 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. And 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).
And 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.)