A cultural anthropologist reviewing the trade paperback fiction tables at the C.H. Booth Public Library Book Sale would conclude that there are book clubs in thriving in Newtown, CT…many, many, many book clubs. This book sale is one of the highlights in my summer book collecting schedule because of the amount of duplicate fiction titles available which indicates that people have read the book at the same time, and then donated it in order to make space for newer titles. This sale is also one of the best organized library book sales in the area.
This is an indoor sale which eliminates chances for inclement weather and book damage. The large tables are well organized in rows using the public space (gyms, multi-purpose rooms) of the Reed Intermediate School (off Route 25) effectively. There are many signs placed strategically around town to make finding the sale easy for drivers.
Fiction is in the large gym; the multi-purpose room holds non-fiction and children’s books, and smaller classrooms are used as holding areas or more expensive/rare texts. There is just enough space to negotiate around tables without becoming physically intimate with other book buyers. Buyers can place selected books in a holding area, and there is no limit to the amount of books one can “hold” before checking out. The lobby holds the checkout area which is spacious enough for several tables. Volunteer cashiers will work on large orders which keeps the traffic for smaller book purchases flowing. Students who need to complete community service will help pack and carry books. Prices are reasonable- from $.50-2.00/book. There was a $5.00 admission fee for the first day, but that was not enough to discourage buyers. Parking was impossible with every spot snapped up after the 1st hour of the sale. I had to park on a side street around the corner from the school.
In total, I spent $809.00. I lost count around book #554, but I would guess that I have at least 700 books from the sale.
The nicest feature of this sale is the organization of fiction. The trade paperbooks are organized by author’s name which makes finding duplicate texts for the classroom a breeze to find. Since I recognize many of the books by their covers, I have no trouble
locating and scooping up 10 copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or six copies of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. These are both books that are core texts that will be taught.
There was also an Oprah Book Club section where I could load up on more core texts: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, and and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
I also found sets of Kaye Gibbon’s Ellen Foster, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and Nineteen Minutes, and Gregory Macguire’s Wicked for the 11th grade Coming of Age unit.
This year’s TEEN section was very profitable. Here I found a boxful of Scott Westerfield titles: Pretties, Uglies and Specials and a few copies of Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion to add to my dystopia unit. I also found copies of Suzanne Fisher Staple’s Shabanu, a number of Anthony Horowitz Stormbreakers, and six copies of SE Hinton’s The Outsiders for 8th and 9th grade.
The non-fiction room is not organized by author, and I have made the conclusion that Newtown does not read much non-fiction. The biography/authbiography table was small; history (American/military/politics) was limited, although I did get several copies of Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead and Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers. Luckily, some volunteer misplaced (or maybe correctly placed?) copies five of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried on the table labeled “War”. I grabbed those so enthusiastically, I frightened a book dealer who was pouring through a pile of WWII books. All in all, the non-fiction choices, while excellent, were not as numerous as those choices in the fiction room.
In contrast, the tables for children’s literature were overflowing almost to the point of breaking. Boxes under the tables were also filled with texts. Volunteers kept refreshing the tables with books, and some of volunteers were savvy enough to keep book series titles together. The most heartening sight were the many parents and their children making selections together; one girl had a stack so high that she could hardly see around them. Seeing all the children’s books (picture books, learn to read books, series, etc) available would lead the cultural anthropologist to conclude that reading starts early in Newtown….and continues in the many book clubs that are culturally thriving in this part of the state.