An Excessive Amount of Literature

Every year around April, the Friends of the Public Library holds a massive, week-long used book sale in the local mall. I know this because I came across it completely by accident last year, and consequently staggered home with 25 lbs of books and the lingering feeling of having been hit by a book mobile.


Last year’s books. I feel like that sideways one in the middle was something I was embarrassed about, but now I can’t remember what it was.

Accordingly, when April rolled around again this year Facebook had the common decency to remind me of what I had posted about a year prior, which was buying an excessive amount of books at said book sale. I immediately checked the mall’s website and discovered I had a tremendously long wait of three whole weeks before it was time.

On Monday, the dawning day of the book fair, I showed up five minutes before the mall opened and prowled like a cat in front of the doors, hissing at passerby that looked like a threat.

I needn’t have worried; the glorious thing about a large library book sale is that a) there’s frequently multiple copies of the same book, 2) no one really knows what they’re looking for until they see it and can’t plan ahead, and δ) everyone has different tastes in books anyway. And fortunately, showing up at 10:00am on a Monday meant I was mostly competing with nice retired people who weren’t there to aggressively snatch books the way I was.


Table one of many.

I’ve never been able to give away books, unless I picked them up by chance and they turned out to be incredibly incompatible with my brain (I’m looking at you, The Martian). As such, even now, I’m envisioning loading all these books I’ve gathered in the last year and a half into a moving van to haul to wherever it is I live next.

That’s the problem with growing up in a household that had a certain reverence for books. Now I can only think of them in that high fantasy “BOOKS ARE MAGIC” mindset, which is often untrue and highly inconvenient, but I suppose there are worse things to hoard. Like garbage, or slunk pelts.

With book prices drastically varying from $1 to $3, I had to be very picky naturally bought any book that looked worth having. I followed a very complicated strategy:

  • Buy any book that I had read before and enjoyed, but didn’t own
  • Buy any book that I’d heard good things about but never read, such as New York Times bestsellers or classics I hadn’t gotten around to
  • Buy any book that just looked vaguely interesting
  • Buy any book

And so I came back with a modest nineteen used books. It’s very handy that I have a nice reading chair in my room now.


While I was in line to buy them a man complimented me on my “Great Gatsby” reusable shopping bag. I had to admit I’d never read it and just bought the whole book-themed bag collection at Barnes and Noble. “Huh,” he said. “I thought it was required reading in all high schools.” Cough.

Now, of course, I’m facing the problem of running out of space (again) in my room. My bookshelves will probably house this batch of books with a little rearranging, but the next batch will overrun everything and soon I’ll be just like that nice couple in that Hoarders episode that had a house like Flourish and Blotts.


I don’t have any more room to expand outwards, but I suppose I could stack another bookcase on top of that first bookcase. And then maybe a miniature bookcase on that tall bookcase, and a corner bookcase for the corner, and then I can just move into a library.

But fortunately it’s all over and I can begin methodically working my way through the new books, at least until next week, when an entirely new book sale begins at the other local shopping center. I regret nothing but my rapidly emptying wallet.

For the Love of Libraries

After seeing Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None bandied about on the internet a few times, I thought I should really get around to reading it. Unfortunately, The Library didn’t have it.

The Library is the the public library closest to me. It is of a moderate size, has a relatively good level of cleanliness, and is peaceful enough that I can pretend I don’t live in the same house as three to six velociraptors. It’s the only library I’ve been to in a whole year… and I started wondering why.

Looking up the book showed that a number of nearby libraries had it, because- this is a shocker- there were a number of nearby libraries. In Idaho, we had one library, and even though it had the charm of a grain silo it was our library because it was the only library within forty minutes of us.

But instead of requesting the book and waiting a week for it, here I could get in my car and drive ten minutes and I would be on the doorstep of another library. This was a novel idea (hee).

And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to get out and try some other libraries. So today, I took a local library tour.

The first library, about ten minutes from me, looked like every federal office building ever.


I love the smell of squat brick buildings with funky windows in the morning.

There was nothing especially remarkable about it, but it was spacious and had a very distinctive library feel to it, so it was all right in my book (hee).


Ah, le tabouret classique de la bibliothèque. My sister and I spent many an hour playing on those squeaky library stools as children.

At the front desk was a severe-looking librarian, which felt very natural because the primary librarian in my Idahoan library always looked as though she could kill me with the practiced swipe of a library card. The aisles in this library were narrow, which I also liked, because it’s easier to hide from the world in them.

I found the Agatha Christie novel easily, and when I went to check it out they stamped it. I found this oddly charming. In “The Library” they don’t do this anymore, because everything’s electronic.


Sadly, there were no previous dates on the book to ponder. Half the fun used to be wondering about the person who checked this book out before you.

The next stop was north, near Rutgers University. The New Brunswick area is an interesting combination of beautiful quasi-colonial housing, horrible gritty slums, and beautiful quasi-colonial housing that is slowly becoming a horrible gritty slum. I didn’t know what to expect from the library there, but I was immediately enamored with the adjacent cemetery.



Gosh, if only I could live here. Just not, you know, like that.

The library itself was nothing to sneeze at either.



The librarian gave me an odd look for standing in the doorway and taking pictures, but clearly she doesn’t understand my genius. I demonstrated my genius by nearly smacking into a table and a bookcase when I was craning my neck to get a better view of the upper floor.


While it was definitely aesthetically pleasing from the front, actually diving into the shelves required a lot of strange navigation. The bookcases were oddly aligned and fairly old. The flooring on the upper level was slightly translucent, allowing me to see the ceiling lights from the floor below, and it made me wonder if you could see the shadows of my feet down there.

New favorite library. Not for the purposes of actually checking out books, mind you. The layout was far too complicated for that. No, new favorite library for wandering the aisles dressed as a 1910s ghost lady with this new Downton Abbey shawl I just bought.


After that library, the next one seemed very unimpressive.

It was largely beige. It was rectangular and dull. The doors and windows were reinforced to prevent crime in the shady neighborhood it was in. There was nothing appealing or interesting about the exterior.


Yeah… yeah, I figured the inside would look like this.

I only spent a moment in this one because there was a large group of Asian ladies who were taking an English class in the main room, and I didn’t want to disturb. I can’t imagine I’ll ever go back to this one, simply because it’s the library equivalent of middle-aged socks with sandals.

The final library was the smallest, and it reminded me a little of the Idaho library.


Only with far more charm than a grain silo.

Though smaller than the last one and plainer than the two before it, this one seemed to hold its own in the warmth department. Despite the same shelving and lighting as the previous beige monstrosity, this one at least felt like the employees liked it. A little.


Every smallish town library ever. Not small-small town, but smallish.

This one seemed like a good ending spot, and it only took me $20 worth of gas to find the book I wanted. Hopefully I will get used to the idea of multiple libraries as opposed to just “The Library,” because there are plenty of libraries to love.

Except the horrific beige one. It gets no love. None.