Making out like a used-book bandit

By: Joe Weaver - Contributing columnist

This past weekend, my wife and I went to a local used-book sale. It’s held a couple of times a year in a big hall downtown and is put on by the friends of the local library. A lot of the books are “retired” library books and you can get a bunch of the bestsellers from the last few years at a considerable discount. My wife and I read a lot and if you have seen the price of a new book these days, it’s no surprise we like to buy them used. Used books aren’t like used cars and they still work most of the time. Occasionally, you might get a dry spine on a book, but it’s not like you are running it to the repair shop all the time.

My wife and I don’t have the same taste in books. Occasionally, we might share a book, but the majority of the time, the books are clearly divided between “his” and “hers.” A year or so into our courtship, some of my books wound up on her shelves and it was then we knew it was serious. We still have some books we bought together in the early days. Some of them have been read and some of them have not, but they will never end up at a used-book sale.

At the sale — which is pretty much a bunch of rows of folding tables with the books positioned spine up, so you can see the titles and authors without have to dig through piles — we each go our own way. My wife goes for the mass-market bestselling fiction hardcovers while I scan the rows of ancient paperbacks looking for something obscure. While she is searching out Nora Roberts and Sue Grafton, I am finding the most ridiculous novelization of a largely forgotten movie. I remember a time when most hit movies, if they were not already based on a book, were released in novel form. Most of them were written by one of a small group of authors who specialized in these kind of books and none of them were especially good. That said, I can be assured I am one of a very few that has a paperback copy of “Saturday Night Fever” when most people have seen only the movie. My wife thinks this is ridiculous, but agrees that I have an uncanny knack for finding these silly books.

There are dozens of these things on my bookshelves. In most instances, I have actually seen the movies and may have them on DVD or Blu-ray. Additionally, they sometimes have movies at the book sale, too, and I usually grab a bunch of those as well. We probably have as many movies as we do books.

The last day of the book sale is the best day. On the last day, you can grab a big paper bag like you used to get at the grocery store, and cram as many books as you can into it and pay only five dollars. I grab a bag and my wife grabs a bag and we go in search of treasures. After about an hour or so, my wife has six or seven hardcover books and a handful of books for our grandsons. I am desperately clutching a paper grocery bag jammed with about 70 pounds of paperbacks that I am probably just going to put on a shelf and forget about. This is what my wife says I do, and I tell her each time that I am not. She’s right and I am mostly wrong. Out of a hundred books I get at the sale, I may read five or so right away and shelve the rest for a later date. I will let you know when that later date comes around.

Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.

Joe Weaver

Contributing columnist