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Survival and Success at the TC Book Sale!


So my brave and loyal literary companion Jennifer and I rose bright and early (okay, earlyish) on Saturday to venture forth to the 12th annual Victoria Times-Colonist Book Sale.

Despite my Guide to the Sale, I broke my own rule and forgot to bring a bottle of water. Fortunately, I followed all the other rules, and was warm enough, comfortable enough, and with good enough company to pass the time pleasantly.

We arrived at about 10 a.m., and while the lineup looked painfully daunting at first, we found it moved quite quickly, and easily caught up throughout our 45 minute wait. And upon entering, we discovered they sell bottles of water for a loonie each! Hurrah.

Entering can be overwhelming. There are a lot of people, and a lot of books. Dizzying amounts of each. But with our map to the inside layout (thoughtfully provided by volunteers while we waited on line) clutched in our eager, sweaty clutches, we were off.

The time flew. Heads down, we scanned box after box after box of book spines, on table after table after table, and then UNDER the same. A word to the wise – it is WORTH it to get under the tables and root around under there. A lot of people don’t, so it’s not as picked over.

My one complaint (and more of a rueful desire, really) would be that I wish the fiction section (huge, and by far the largest section at the book sale) was further segregated. It seems to have been done a little bit – we saw one table that seemed primarily romances – but it would be great to have them more clearly defined. Regardless, given the sheer volume of books, the volunteers, organizers, and Times-Colonist do a yeoman job of it.

The checkout procedure, which could threaten to be nightmarishly slow, is instead efficient, beginning with volunteers at tables waving red flags when they’re free, checking your books, and handing you a total slip to take to one of the waiting cashiers. The sale accepts major credit cards, cash and Interac, and maybe others – not sure.

When we emerged, dazed and trembling, back into the outside world, we checked our watches (okay, cell phones – it’s 2009, after all) to see that it was 2 o’clock. I think the TC Book Sale is like Las Vegas – time goes so fast, with no hint of goings-on in the outside world, that any perception of time passage is skewed. We realized we were starving. Our legs hurt from squatting constantly, our feet hurt from standing, our biceps complained that the boxes were heavy, but we were triumphant. Jennifer got 14 books. I myself showed no such restraint. I told myself at the beginning of the day that I would spend ABSOLUTELY NO MORE than $50.00, and didn’t even break my own rule. I spent $41.00 when all was said and done, and did quite well. Here’s my list:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (never read it)
The Deptford Trilogy (all three books!) by Robertson Davies (have only read the first one [The Fifth Business] and loved it)
Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry (love it – wanted to own it)million-little-pieces-james-frey
Two Dennis Lehane books for my boyfriend who couldn’t make it
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (never read it – and I couldn’t care less if he lied, if it’s a good read – but please note my copy was found in the fiction section)
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (never read ANY Graham Greene – bout time I did)
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (never read it)
Ducks Flying Backwards by Tom Robbins (lnever read it)
Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver (love it – wanted to own it)
High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver (love it – wanted to own it)
The Double by Jose Saramago (never read it)
The Stone Raft by Jose Saramago (never read it)
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (never read it)
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (never read it)
The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith (never read it)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (loved it, wanted to own it)bel-canto-ann-patchett-paperback-cover-art
Bel Canto (love it – wanted to own it – and I really ADORE this book, and found such a beautiful copy, in great condition, in a cover I’d never seen – hurrah) by Ann Patchett
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (never read it – I tried The Bluest Eye ages ago and didn’t get through it, but this one has been recommended to me by a few people, AND it’s one of Barack Obama’s favourite books)
Paddy Clarke, Ha ha ha by Roddy Doyle (never read it)
No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy (never read it)
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho (never read it, but I love The Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die, and my friend Merritt is reading this one and enjoying it)

All that for $41.00!

Love it.

Next year, I’m going to go back on day two. I’m miffed at myself for not getting to nonfiction and cookbooks while I was there, but I was SO ready to leave when we did.

Did anyone else go and find any treasures?

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

2 Responses to “Survival and Success at the TC Book Sale!”

  1. Excuse me, my hands were NOT sweaty. Also, I only bought 14 because I still have some left from the last 5 years that I went to the sale – I need to get through those, too! Next year I will be caught up and can splurge again. :)

  2. Beth Carswell

    I know. So do I. :( Yeesh. I really need to not let myself acquire ANY more books until I’ve plowed through at least 15 of my “to read” list.

    Also – read “Shakespeare Wrote for Money” which is Nick Hornby’s Believer Columns all about reading. It makes me feel better how in every issue, his “books bought” and “books read” lists had big discrepancies.

    And FINE. “daintily glistening lady-hands”.