Mark Twain Library Book Sale-As Unique as Its Namesake!

September 5, 2011 — Leave a comment

Opening day for Mark Twain Public Library Book Sale in Redding, Connecticut, is the stuff of legend. As Christmas is for young children, The Mark Twain Book Sale has sugarplums dancing in the heads of book dealers and book collectors. I have heard tell of book dealers snatching up wonderful finds-rare books, popular books, first editions, and autographed copies. To be honest, I have never been to this on the infamous “opening day”. I have always attended the sale on the Labor Day weekend sale on Sunday (1/2 price books) or Monday ($5/bag). Not to worry, the sale is a treat until the very end!

Mark Twain Library Building in Redding, CT

Mark Twain was a Redding resident; statue on library grounds

The annual sale was held in the Redding Community Center, located off Route 107 in Redding, Connecticut (the library is located at 439 Redding Road). This book sale run by the Friends of the Mark Twain Library is so well established as a Labor Day Weekend event, that publicity is not a factor. There were two main rooms organized for the sale; the top floor houses childrens’ books and media, the bottom floor holds all other genres. There were long tables clearly labeled with genre signs. An army of volunteers wearing green aprons for easy identification busily restocked tables, placing titles sideways for easy identification. Since I attended the on “bag day”, there were piles of doubled brown-paper bags ready for shoppers; checkout tables held staffers willing to help carry books out into the parking lot. The high degree of organization for this sale some 72 hours after the first shopper entered the building was a testament to work the volunteers must have put in preparing the sale.Only the most organized systems could have stood up to the number of shoppers over the weekend.

I was hoping to find copies of Larry Watson’s Montana, 1948.…I found three! I was looking for Sherman Alexis The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian…I found two! There were also the standard five copies of Lois Lowery’s The Giver, two copies of Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, three copies of Edward Bloor’s Tangerine, and a copy of Marina Budhos’ Ask Me No Questions all for the middle school. I also located two needed copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and two copies of Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead.

On “bag day”, all books that can fit into the bag are $5.00, so I was fairly casual in collecting additional copies of books that we may not need immediately or that we will offer as contemporary novels to the Creative Writing class (Grade 12). There were several copies of Khaled Hossani’s The Kite Runner, Billie Letts’ Where the Heart Is, Curtis Sittenfield’s Prep, Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,  and Kim Edward’s The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I also located three copies of Thomas Friedman’s Longitudes and Attitudes which will go to the Social Studies Department, and five copies of Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand, for the psychology classes. The quantity of Tannen’s book still available on the last day of the sale did give me pause, however. I do hope that relations between the sexes in Redding are better than the title indicates.

Which brings me to a quick cultural study of Redding’s reading habits. Unlike other sales in the area, the tables of mystery and romance novels were far smaller than those in neighboring town book sales. Here, a multitude of cookbooks were organized by subject with diet cookbooks  separated across the aisle from their fattening counterparts. History tables delineated clean boundaries by wars; political books were separated from military memoirs. Books about nature were clearly separated several tables away from gardening books which were also clearly separated from animal books; here, nature was subdivided. The tables holding humor books were still full, an indication that either few books in the genre humor sold over the weekend or that the residents of Redding have an amazing appreciation for comedy. And where else but Redding could one find a table with a genre labelled “Ephemera”????

I paid $20.00 and collected 87 books. Amazing.

Maybe next year, I will go to opening day of the Mark Twain Book Sale and see the excitement of book dealers racing up and down the aisles with books stacked high to the ceiling….or maybe I will just continue to attend on the reduced price days. There were wonderful books available even after several days of shoppers plowed through the stacks on the tables, and the price was certainly right! The volunteers kept thanking me for attending the sale. No, thank you,.

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