It’s one of the signs of spring. Although it may be more appropriate for winter when we’re holed up inside for much of the time, the library book sale often takes place when it’s a bit more conducive to being outdoors. When we travel, which isn’t frequently these days, we often spontaneously stop into an advertised library book sale. Most of the fare is fairly pedestrian, but sometimes you find something you simply didn’t expect. On one such recent outing, that’s just exactly what happened. Back when we lived in New Jersey the Friends of the Hunterdon County Library book sale was a much-anticipated event. It remains, in my experience, one of the largest of such sales. (Believe it or not, there are websites dedicated to pointing inveterate readers to book sales and that’s how I found this one.) That’s not the surprising part, however.
One year when I went, one of the library friends was working the pre-entry crowd, proclaiming some of the treasures inside. One of them, he announced, was a Bible from the nineteenth century. They were asking more than the usual one or two dollars for that one. If I recall, it was $100. No, I didn’t buy it. I have dozens of Bibles right behind me at this moment and if I had a Franklin to spend I’d load up on books I don’t already own. Many of the books mentioned on this blog came from just such sales as these. That big Bible’s not the surprising thing either. Here it is: on a recent library book sale day, I saw a shelf with Bibles. They were free. Library book sales are intended to raise money, but Bibles for free? Unexpected, no?
America is the land of free Bibles. They are printed in vast quantities and sold cheaply, without a thought to what this says in a capitalist world. Some Christian rock groups were famous for throwing free Bibles from the stage—you’ve got to think those in attendance already had one—and any county fair will usually have at least free New Testaments for the taking. Ironically, most of those who distribute free Good Books are also the staunchest supporters of capitalism, one of the most exploitative economies ever invented. Attending library book sales entails more than just finding books that you perhaps didn’t know about. It’s more than being tempted by something for which you’d rather not pay full-price. It is, perhaps surprisingly, a learning experience in and of itself.