This first day of October in Connecticut was not emblematic of classic cool crisp fall days. Instead, a blanket of humidity hung over the rain-soaked state which received another several inches the night before the Saturday book sales in Brookfield and Washington. Separated by 17 miles but sharing the same weather, the make-up of the two sales could not have been more different.
I arrived several minutes early to the Brookfield Public Library and found volunteers poking a rain-saturated tent that was bowed holding several gallons of water and looming precariously over a table. Fortunately, the bulk of the sale was held indoors in the community room. Tables were filled with books; boxes were stacked below. This year residents donated generously and as a former resident myself, I was also familiar with many of the volunteers who year after year tirelessly support the library. They were very helpful with other patrons, (“Jodi Picoult books? Oh, we have as many as you want…take them, take them all, please!”). They restacked tables and manned the checkout tables very efficiently. Some titles were misplaced (non-fiction slipped into the fiction section and vice versa) which meant that a careful perusing of the titles was necessary. However, this strategy could also be a clever sales ploy, so I spent time and examined books on every table on the off chance there would be a misplaced book that I could use. Such diligence paid off because I found copies of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods on five separate tables.
Bargains at this sale included five copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, four copies of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and two copies of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. There were also multiple copies of Mark Salzman’s Lost in Place from a town-wide read several years ago. I also turned up a boxful of copies of Khaled Hossani’s The Kite Runner but left them for others; we already have a class set! The presence of multiple copies means, of course, that Brookfield has many book groups (I am speaking from personal experience). Only book clubs can explain the multiple copies of titles such as Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitterage, and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. Other excellent finds in the young adult section included Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion, M.T. Anderson’s Feed, and Jarry Spinelli’s Stargirl. I filled two bags.
In contrast, the book sale at Washington’s Gunn Library was filled with singular copies of books. The basement of this deceptively large library was filled to capacity with books, which was surprising given the steady stream of people leaving with bags filled with books. Titles were displayed along the walls on well-marked shelves and on tables, and the variety of titles was impressive. There was an array of biographies, history, fiction, self-help and cookbooks, but duplicate copies of titles were almost impossible to find. Performing arts literature was subdivided into music, art and dance on an overflowing table. Romance was relegated to two boxes under the fiction paperback table. A section of the sale at the entrance was dedicated to autographed copies of books. Rare books were provided a separate space. All of these genres contained singletons. Considering the number of solo copies, one wonders about the reading habits of the residents of Washington. Is breadth of literature a community goal? Do they pass single copies from resident to resident rather than buy in bulk? Is this book sale a giant exchange site?
In any event, there were excellent new choices to add to the memoir class shelves including Ying Ma’s Chinese Girl in the Ghetto and Meredith Hall’s Without a Map: A Memoir. There were also new copies of Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead and Michael Paterniti’s Driving Mr. Einstein. The young adult’s section included a copy of Suzanne Collins’s Gregor the Overlander. Needed titles located included Bobbie Anne Mason’s In Country, Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony. In addition, I located a a copy of Tim O’Brien’s Going after Cacciato and Cormac MacCarthy’s Cities of the Plain to add to English III independent reads. Volunteers at the sale were also efficient re-stacking the tables throughout the morning, while wisely choosing to keep their distance from the heavily trafficked children’s section.
The difference in titles available from each of these communities in the Northwest corner of Connecticut could not have been more different, but I spent the exact same amount at each (about $62.00) for almost the exact same number of books. In total, I purchased 111 books for $123.50. It was the best of book sale days; it was the worst of weather starts for October.