“So, how many did you buy?” my spouse asked Thursday afternoon, after first accusing me of “sneaking” back into the office following a quick jaunt a few blocks to May Memorial Library for my annual visit to the Friends of the Library Book Sale.
“A few,” I said. “You can get a lot of books there for $22.50.”
Then she sighed, processing the thought of another dozen or so moldy old books coming into a home where every piece of shelf space is claimed by the likes of David Halberstam, Red Smith, Anne Tyler, Wally Lamb, Jodi Piccoult, Hunter S. Thompson, Stephen King … well, you get the idea. the list seems almost endless. Together, we own a ton of books. I’m only guessing the weight, but it has to be close.
Where this latest haul will go, I have no idea. I’m sure my wife was thinking the same, then said, “Well, I can’t say anything. Last year I brought home a box and you didn’t buy anything.”
Yes, Thursday I moseyed up to the side entrance on Davis Street where the two-week sale was midway through its second week. It’s a daunting task going to the fall sale of used books, which is one of our area’s biggest fund-raisers. There are thousands of books from which to choose. Historically, I’ve had great luck there. I bought a first edition of Norman Mailer’s “Executioner’s Song” there in 2007 — my first trip. Since then I’ve picked up collected works of pulp fiction, an autobriography of Terry Sanford, and the collected sports columns of the legendary New York Times writer Red Smith. And that doesn’t even get into the paperbacks.
Because the book sale is the kind of place that could suck my time like late-night TV or Facebook, I limit myself to one hour visits. I might go once a year or sometimes twice. But I never spend more than one hour. Hardback books, by the way, are $3 and the paperbacks $1.50.
That makes diving for treasure a challenge. The fiction section alone is dizzying with thousands of books arranged only loosely in alphabetical order.
Thursday I got a break right away. Jeff Tudor was working the checkout area. Jeff writes to me every so often and occasionally sends a letter to the Open Forum. I had never met him before Thursday afternoon so it was nice to put a name with a face. But he spotted me right away.
“The baseball books are there to your left,” he said and pointed.
Wow, people really do get to know somebody who works at the newspaper pretty well.
It turned out to be a fabulous tip. While I already owned many of the baseball books, there was a hardback copy of the legendary “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton. It was among the first player kiss-and-tell book that offered rich and profane details of things said and done in the lockerroom. “Ball Four” was the first truly grownup sports book I read. I still have a softback copy. Now I have a hardback, too.
Baseball aside, the sports non-fiction section was overflowing with great choices from football and basketball writers. This trip I didn’t stray too far from the Humor and Sports sections. I took a brief detour into Biography and quickly passed through Fiction before my hour came to an end.
This was my haul:
“Holidays in Hell, P.J. O’Rourke (1992)
“Doonesbury: The Reagan Years,” Gary Trudeau (1984)
“The Onion: Dispatches from the Tenth Circle.” (2001)
“The T-Formation: Notre Dame Football,” Frank Leahy (1949)
“The Dean Smith Story,” Thad Mumau (1980)
“Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the NBA,” Bob Ryan and Terry Pluto (1987)
“Ball Four,” Jim Bouton (1970)
“Willie’s Game: An Autobiography of Willie Mosconi,” Willie Mosconi and Stanley Cohen (1993)
“Trying to Save Piggy Sneed,” John Irving (1996)
All in all, a pretty good hour’s work. I was especially pleased to land the book about Dean Smith, written even before he won his first title as the basketball coach at the University of North Carolina in 1982. The Notre Dame book, written by one of the all-time great Fighting Irish coaches, was another wonderful find. Two books helped my burgeoning collection of newspaper related items — the Doonesbury and Onion retrospectives. And I’ve liked P.J. O’Rourke dating to his time with the National Lampoon and once met him when he spoke at Elon in the late 1980s.
Now I’m trying to decide whether to go back for more. The Friends of the Library sale runs until Monday. And the prices will go down markedly later on. Hmmmm, it’s just another hour.
I can spare the time, but do I have the space?