The Used Book Sale

26 February 2018:

A few days ago I helped set up a used book sale at the library here in downtown Bozeman.

Another odd job, another “resumé builder.” (Add it to the list.)

Beginning at 8:00 a.m., a group of six of us hauled 360 boxes up from the basement—the boxes neatly labeled “Softcover Fiction,” “Hardcover Fiction,” “Plants and Animals,” “Mystery,” “Art,” etc.

Once all the boxes were upstairs and all the tables standing—marked with an orange sign for their genre—we unloaded the books into neat rows. Row upon row, above and below the table.

The whole chore took six hours for six of us to complete.

With everyone dispersed, working, sorting, I aimed myself to a spot in the back. I unloaded and organized eight boxes labeled “Classics and Poetry,” which made for slow work, as you could understand, reading each title, thumbing the pages of ones that interested me.

It was a Montana morning full of musty books and quiet.

And, if that wasn’t enough, in front of me, outside the big library window, was the Bridger Range—snowy, cold and blue. There wasn’t an ounce of hurry-up in my effort.

I sorted eight boxes of “Classics and Poetry,” pulling out everything from Plato to Dickens, from Kerouac to Whitman, from Eliot’s etherized love song to Cervantes’ hell. They had Jack London. They had Hemingway, Stegner, Neruda, Lorca, Cummings. They even had the collected poems of Richard Hugo.

As workers, as helpers, hired by the local temp. agency, we had first dibs—the pre-sale diggings, the mad grab-and-go before anyone else knew what was on the tables.

With that kind of window, with that kind of green light, with that kind of luck, how many books would you take home?

By 2:00, I had twenty books set aside. I whittled that down to a modest twelve before walking home via The Cannery for a burger and beer. (A hard-earned meal, I’d say, and delicious.)

At $2/book, I spent $24, then spent $14 on a burger and beer, meaning roughly a third of the money I made all morning came in and went right back out into the world. But isn’t that fair? Isn’t that a deal?

I brought home Berry, Dickey, Wallace, Rich, Macdonald, Oliver, Lewis, Hemingway, Peacock, Bukowski, Kittredge, and a little lady named Abigail Thomas.


It was, as I imagine certain yard sale shoppers in the south saying it, “a helluva deal.”

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