The Joy of the Used Book Sale

The wet box of books (it was raining hard). Just think: Inside of that box are multiple worlds, lives, and stories waiting to be read.

Folks, there are few things in this world I love more, and get giddy about more, than a used book sale. As someone who still cherishes and collects physical books, used books sales are the embodiment of heaven on Earth. I mean, aside from the pure joy of getting more books, there’s the fact that I can a.) do so cheaply, considering that buying a hardcover book new is anywhere between $20 and $40, if not more, but at a used book sale I can get one for $2!; and b.) who knows what gems I may find; maybe books I’ve always wanted to get but balked at the price previously?

There is also the fact that I enjoy being around other people who are giddy about filling up a box of books, even if we’re not talking to each other, there’s a giddy buzz in the air! Although, someone did notice I had the first book in the Stephen King Dark Tower series in my box, and she was giddy about my giddiness at getting the first in the series!

The only bad thing about a used book sale is that at some point, I gotta stop. I gotta stop adding books to the box (and uh, the box’s space is finite, and I can only scoot/carry one box), and step away from the sale. In fact, I stopped at the bank prior to going to get cash because I wasn’t sure if they took cards. I brought $40 in cash. Good thing is they did take cards because I ended up getting $43 worth of books.

But think about it (and I’m going to estimate instead of looking at each individual book’s retail price):

  • I got nine paperback fiction novels. Typical retail price for those is on average about $15, or $135. Instead, I got them for $1 each, or $9.
  • I got six hardback fiction novels. Typical retail for those is on average about $22, or $120. Instead, I got them for $2 each, or $12.
  • I got 10 hardback nonfiction books. Even though nonfiction books tends to be more expensive in my experience, let’s stick with the $22 price, so $220. Instead, I got them for $2 each, or $20.
  • I got six paperback nonfiction books. Again, I think those tend to be more than their fiction counterpart, but let’s stick with $15 each, or $90. Instead, I got them for $1 each, or $6.

My pricing is slightly off because I was charged $43 (maybe I’m forgetting how they were charging some of these), but the list here adds up to $47, which goes more to my point anyhow: The retail price of this haul of 31 books would have been $565! And I got them for $43! That’s why used book sales are freaking awesome.

Here’s my haul:

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t there a second downside to used book sales? That being that you will never read all the books there are, and maybe not even all the books in this haul, before you die. True, I definitely won’t read all the books there are in the world before I die, and I may not even finish all 31 books in this haul.

But let’s do some more math. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, I read one book a week for the average life expectancy of an American male of 74.5 years. And I say for argument’s sake because one book a week isn’t a realistic goal, or something I could plausibly maintain. I’m 31-years-old now, almost 32-years-old. For my lack-of-math-skill brain, let’s round up to 32, and 75.

That gives me 43 more years of reading, or about 2,242 weeks. So, at one book a week for 43 years, or 2,242 weeks, that’s about another 2,242 books I have left to read before dying. Let’s round down, and just say it’s 2,000 more books. Last I checked, I have somewhere around 1,300 books in my room, although that’s counting the ones I’ve already read. And, of course, there is also the fact that in that 2,000, I’m sure to blow a slot by re-reading some books, like the Harry Potter series.

Anyway, the point being, there are too many books, and not enough time to read them all. Even if I never went to another used book sale again, or a yard sale, or an actual bookstore (or library!), it’s still unlikely I will read all the books I possess. But I don’t find that to be a negative; I find it to be a beautiful blessing (blessing in a secular sense). Daunting, because the scope of human life but also its finite scale, is always daunting, but as I like to quote Ta-Nehisi Coates as saying, there is beauty in the struggle.

So, let us struggle beautifully against the glorious mountains of “to be read” books!

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