I’m a sucker for a used book sale. Something about picking through tables and tables of books to find old favorites and new possibilities makes me giddy, not to mention the smell of hundreds of books, which is so comforting.
Every year since I moved to Maryland, I’ve been making an event of the Stone Ridge Used Book Sale, in Bethesda. My aunt lives near the Stone Ridge school, and she’s the one who first introduced me to their annual fundraising book sale. The school collects used books throughout the year, and an army of volunteers work at sorting, categorizing, and pricing them before the sale weekend rolls around again in April and they need to line them up neatly on tables in the three gymnasiums. How big is the sale? You’re handed a map when you enter the front door. There’s a history section and an American history section, each one occupying its own large table. There’s psychology, medicine, science, humor, fiction and biography. How-tos, cookbooks, classics and foreign languages in every format: hardcover, paperback, trade paperback, audiobook…
The sale runs for four days.
We make an outing of it, marking the date on our calendars months in advance so we don’t miss it. It seemed to be a little on the sparser side this year, which means that only three gyms worth of tables were filled with books. In previous years, there were boxes of books under the tables, waiting to be brought up by volunteers filling the empty table spaces as books were nabbed. Still, I left after giving the school $48 in exchange for two canvas shopping bags full of books. Want to see what I got?
So many books!
Let’s see… a handful of board books for when my nephew comes to visit, a deck of cards with Weber grill recipes on them, and a two-for-one H.G. Wells with The Time Machine and The Invisible Man, both of which I’ve read but neither of which I owned.
A couple of these are novels I previously read and enjoyed enough to want a copy handy for re-reading: Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding) and The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein). I highly recommend the latter – it’s written from the point of view of a dog, and it’s excellent.
I picked up Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce (Douglas Starr). Given my profession and current employer, I couldn’t leave a book like that on the table. I also got One Hundred Days, My Unexpected Journey From Doctor to Patient (David Biro), because I love reading about medicine and illness from people on the inside.
I’m very excited about To Seek Out New Life – The Biology of Star Trek (Athena Andreadis), which explores the weird life-forms and environments of Star Trek from the perspective of today’s biological knowledge. How possible is a methane life-form, anyway? Why am I not getting my drugs by hypospray yet?
I’ve got Driving Mr Albert (Michael Paterniti), about a road trip taken to transport Einstein’s brain across the country, and Uncle Tungsten, a memoir by Oliver Sacks, the neurologist. I also bought Legacy, A Step-by-step Guide to Writing Personal History (Linda Spence), in hopes that it will help me to become a better writer.
I finally put A Complicated Kindness, an award-winning novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews, into my canvas bag after stopping to re-read the back a half dozen times. Obviously, I want to read it. And last, my husband found me If I Die Before I Wake, the Flu Epidemic diary of Fiona Macgregor, by Jean Little. It’s got “Dear Canada” written in a banner across the top, and a little research tells me that it’s fiction, one of a series of fictional “historical diaries” written around the time of big events in Canadian history, but I still think it will be interesting to read.
Once I’m finished all these, I will box up any that I don’t need to keep, and bring them back to Stone Ridge so that someone else can pick them up next year and enjoy them. Unless a friend wants to read them first, of course!