The Venerable Lady of Book Sales: Southport, CT Pequot’s Library

July 27, 2013 — 1 Comment

Browsing at the Southport Pequot Library Book Sale, I overheard the following conversation:

“Why, here’s another book by Thackeray….”Pendennis”. Have you read that?”
“That’s a lovely read, but I’m not reading Thackeray this year; I told you that this is the summer I am reading Trollope.”
“Yes, you did..(*pause*)…Oh!…do we have a nice copy of “Ethan Frome”?”

Behind the two people conversing was a sign with an appropriate message:

Old (but Interesting) Books.

“Yes,”I thought, “that certainly was an interesting conversation about old books,”

The Pequot Library Book Sale
720 Pequot Avenue  Southport, CT 06890-1496  |  203.259.0346

Pequot library

Friday, July 26 to Tuesday, July 30, 2013
OVER 140,000 BOOKS, CDs, DVDs, RECORDS, etc.
Admission is FREE and all Sale proceeds benefit Pequot Library.
Friday, July 26 9am to 8pm DOUBLE the marked price
Saturday, July 27 9am to 5:30pm Priced as marked
Sunday, July 28 9am to 5:30pm Priced as marked
Monday, July 29 9am to 6pm HALF the marked price
Tuesday, July 30 9am to 2pm $5 PER BAG DAY!
High quality books at reasonable prices
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express Accepted

Going to the Pequot Library in this small Fairfield County town reminds me of visiting my Grandma Rosie; she was eclectic, tousled and conversational with books and crosswords stacked around her armchair. This sale is equally eclectic, housed partially in a venerable mansion that is the main library and partially under the large white tents that cover the lawn.  Inside both the library and under the tents the books are laid out onto tables in rows, in stacks, in mounds; many tables bend with the weight and some books spill over to the boxes or tarps below.

As you shop, there are surprising little gems mixed in every genre. Admittedly, some of these surprises are probably due to volunteer book sorters who, when faced with the daunting task of organizing the 140,000 plus books, may have been a little unclear about the divide between fiction and non-fiction. What else could explain the placement of several copies of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time on both the Fiction and the Animals and Nature Table? Or why would Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle be on the Art and Architecture table? But I quibble. Be polite and pretend that you are sorting though the library in Grandma Rosie’s house. Notice and enjoy the rich variety of texts available for purchase, regardless as to where they have been placed. Tidy the piles as you go, and you will be a welcome guest.

I secured a dozen hardly used copies of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. The first time I read the book, I was so annoyed by the lack of punctuation for dialogue that I complained to several of my students. One student thoughtfully replied, “It’s like he is breaking down the walls between what is thought and what is spoken.” I have not complained about the lack of punctuation since.

New copies of All the Pretty Horses retail for $12.29 each and my 12 copies would have cost $147.48; I spent a total of $132.00 for four bags of books in addition to these copies. The titles I selected were mostly “replacement” books such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Coehlo’s The Alchemist, Andersen’s Speak and Kesey’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I even purchased a number of copies of John Knowles A Separate Peace; I dislike the book, but the copies were too new to pass up, and the English I honors classes like the story. There were no copies of my target book The Help to be had, but I could have purchased a class set of 30 or more copies of Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees.

Other notable qualities of the sale that provide hints to the character of Southport’s residents include:

  • an amazing array of cookbooks, many in pristine condition (may not be a good thing in a cookbooks; shouldn’t they be falling apart?)
  • well organized audio texts (someone knew his/her stuff!)
  • award-winning fiction seriously represented  (the Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, Pulitzer Prize, Newbery Medal, Nobel Prize for Literature, PEN/Faulkner Award, etc.)
  • a tremendously large section of biographies in the main library (My Grandma Rosie loved biographies as well…)
  • teachers from area schools are given vouchers (wish my school could be included??)

The drawbacks?

  • books under the table are hard to access and bending and straightening leads to awkward collisions of heads/buttocks/stomachs/elbows;
  • the children’s section was ransacked by…you guessed it…children;
  • not enough room around paperback fiction, while the romance section sat forlorn with wide aisle surrounding it;
  • the smell of the cookout is hard to bear on an empty stomach…be warned.

At the checkout line, the volunteers were characteristically more gracious than efficient. Your choice of books could be the start of a lovely conversation, but you should hasten the end of the pleasantries as long lines could be building behind you.
Like my Grandma Rosie, they understand, just as long as you promise to visit next year as well.

One response to The Venerable Lady of Book Sales: Southport, CT Pequot’s Library


    My friend and I have been visiting the Book Sale for about 5 years in a row now…we wouldn’t THINK about not going.

    The titles of books and choices of books are amazing.

    The one thing that bothers both of us are those with the machines checking titles… They really do hog up space while they pick up book after book after book and throw it back again once they find out it isn’t worth enough for their bosses.

    These people have really taken the fun and serenity out of book shopping.

    I wish there were a way —maybe the first three hours— for only them on the first day…special hours on another day. They come with a army of workers anyway–so limiting them to this time shouldn’t prevent them from scooping up all the good books that they can.After that three hour time –NO MACHINES should be allowed ! Let the real book lovers have the time to browse and enjoy looking. Anyone using a machine to check costs should be immediately excused from the sale !

    These machine people are the only thing that would drive me away…and from what I have heard and now seen with the much smaller amount of visitors– seems to show that many feel the same way about them as I do.

    It is NOT the machine peoples army that I come for –with their caches of hidden and covered book piles. it is the change to mill around and take the time to look at the many titles and be in a state of wonder of them all.

    The machine people totally ruin this.

    Please give them their own time and space and then ban their use while the rest of us shop !!

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