As I admitted in an earlier post , Ms. J and I have a problem, we have too many books in the house, and yet we continue to get more. What could be the ultimate indication of our shared bibliomania is that we planned our vacation according to when a library book sale was scheduled. But this was no ordinary book sale! This was the annual West Tisbury library book sale on Martha’s Vineyard, a four day sale where all books are free on the last day of the sale. So in our quest to completely fill the house up with books, and turn Mr. C into a book reading nerd by the time he’s five, we found out when this year’s sale was scheduled, and then planned our vacation to coincide with the sale. Yes, insane, I know.
Martha’s Vineyard has become a huge tourist destination, and also something of a writer’s getaway as well. So there are a lot of people who have books on the island for their vacation, and a lot of people who live there who just have a lot of books. And what do people do with all those summer reading books that people get for their vacations ? Apparently they give them to the library to sell for their annual fundraiser.
The library takes over a school gym for four days in late July for the sale. There are tables and tables of books filling up the huge gym. Sorted by subject, there are enough books for there to be a specific table just for books on ‘Fishing’. The first and second day they are sold for between $0.50 for paperbacks up to $2 for hardcovers. The third day they are half price, and the last day they are free.
Why are the book free on the last day ? Well, something that becomes apparent pretty quickly to visitors is that Martha’s Vineyard is in fact, an island. And as such, everything has to be brought over on the ferry. So everything is much more expensive there, a gallon of milk is more than $5, a pint of ice cream can run up to $7. And everything has to be taken off on the ferry too, including garbage. No one wants to have to pay to have their garbage taken away, so they try to reduce the amount of garbage as much as possible. The library has no space to keep the books at the end of the sale, so they throw away what’s left over. They throw them away!
We just had to save as many as possible! So we went on the first day of the sale to see if there were any that we would be willing to actually buy, and came away with about 20 books. OK, no big deal. Some good books there. But we were waiting for free day.
Two days later was the big day. We cleaned out the car. We found some boxes and bags. We woke up early. We had a strategic plan to occupy Mr. C during the sale, when he got bored with picking out books, we would take turns with him in the playground while one of us picked out books inside.
So after two hours of book hunting we managed to get close to 262 books, yes I counted them all. All were free. At one point a librarian saw that I had a huge stack and came over to try to encourage me to get more. ‘Looks like you have some travel memoirs there, here’s one on Australia, why don’t you take this one too?, We’re just going to throw it away!” How could I refuse?
Of the 262, we somehow managed to get about 50 books for Mr. C, mostly recently published picture books. I look for anything that has a dog on the cover, since he loves dogs. Anything with trucks, just about any other kind of animal, and anything about castles too. A book about a dog who lives in a castle and drives an excavator would be ideal. Anything that looks funny too. Anything that looks like it has a message or wants to teach us a lesson does not go in the bag. Those books do not stand up to more than one reading.
We try to find books for each other as well. It’s always interesting to see what Ms. J picks out for me, and I’m always anticipating her reaction of the books I pick out for her. Any book published by New York Review Books, sure throw that in the bag! Anything from Penguin, especially classics, sure, why not! Ms. J loves Jane Austen, so if I see anything that looks like it might be similar, I get it. I found an old Angela Thirkell that she was very happy with. She knows I like travel memoirs, natural history, and translated fiction, so she looks for those. This is how I found out about Patrick Leigh Fermor, Georges Simenon, and Barry Lopez, among many others.
Here’s my stack below. The stack of Zane Grey hardcovers in perfect condition are not pictured. I’ll never read all of these books, but I’ll try.
This morning Mr. C said, “Let’s go to that book store with all the kids books and the slide outside!”. We had to tell him that it’s only open once a year, and next year we’ll have to rent a truck!