Book Culture

The book is not dead. Yesterday, on a warm, sunny spring day that veritably screamed “outdoors,” I found myself standing in line. I was at the Hunterdon County Libraries’ book sale. Having awoken in a panic a few weeks back gasping, “I missed the Bryn Mawr book sale!,” I made it a point to catch this one. You see, I read a lot of books on the bus. My job doesn’t pay very well, so I get inexpensive tomes where I can. And I wasn’t the only one in New Jersey sacrificing a rare, sunny weekend to look at books. I arrived twenty minutes before starting time and was well back in line. Although I seldom find items from my wish list, it always does me good to see so many people out for the purpose of literacy.

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A book sale, like life, is like a box of chocolates. By far the majority of books here are publications vastly overprinted by excessively optimistic publishers. Of course, some people may buy books without the intent of keeping them, as difficult as that is for me to fathom. Since these are donations, it’s difficult to say much about how they reflect the taste of New Jersey readers. I couldn’t help but notice, however, as I wended my way to the religion table, that those who got there before me were racing through this particular table with a focus I can no longer muster, snapping up the gems, manically filling their bags. About the only other table where I saw that kind of passion was the science fiction section. I get overwhelmed in such environments. Too many titles, too close together, in only the loosest of orders (and sometimes very mis-categorized) can make for frustrated hunting. Nevertheless, I’m glad I marked my calendar.

The religion tables were mostly filled with predictable material that fails to challenge the intellect. Still, if it gets people reading, I have no cause for complaint. After about half an hour it was impossible to get through a single aisle without having to excuse myself a few times. Every subject, every category, had its readers. I was especially glad to see so many young people there. This may be the most hope for the future that I will see all year. Home with an aching shoulder and a supply to keep me going for forthcoming weeks, I notice the clouds drifting over what began as a glorious blue sky. No matter. If it rains, I will have plenty to do indoors. Resurrecting the mind from its slumbers is the most religious of all activities.

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