The Big Book Sale

I dreamed of a book sale last night. It was being held in a warren of numberless rooms, and while I was only seeing the same boring Poul Andersons and Piers Anthonys, I knew that exciting things were waiting just around the corner.

Sure enough, I woke up to find that the San Francisco library's giant and most wonderful annual book sale is just a week away.

I cannot recommend this sale enough, even if you are not a sick book hound like me. If you read, and you don't exclusively get books at the library, this is the sale for you. Only buy best-sellers? No problem, they've got multiple tables of modern fiction. Sci-fi or bust? In addition to the Andersons and Anthonys, you'll find box after box of sci-fi/fantasy novels. Or maybe, like me, you can't afford those gorgeous photo-rich coffee table books you covet? At this sale you can! And if you have younger kids in your life, this is the best place to find tons of great kids' books for a quarter apiece (at least on Sunday), which normally go for $12 or more.

I know not everyone loves used books as I do. I love opening a book and finding a dedication someone wrote when they gave the book as a gift fifty years ago. I like seeing passages underlined in pencil and a few cryptic notes in the margins. It's oddly comforting to know that this book has had a history independent of the story it's telling.

But I know many people prefer shiny new covers and pristine pages, and you will also find those at the sale. There's a whole table of brand new books, plus a lot of the modern fiction is in as-new condition. The only really bad condition books I've ever found there was a boxed set of some really excellent classics, which Michele (thank goodness) made me put back after I carried it around for an hour, because the bindings were crumbling into adhesive red dust before our eyes.

The truth is, I wait for this sale all year, and not just because I am acquisitive and a cheap bastard. I love being in a warehouse full of books, and I love being around people who love them as much as I do. People who love them enough to snatch them out from under you. People who love them enough to body-block you with a cart when you reach for that copy of The Great Brain that they know they saw first. People who will shoot you over a mint-condition Oliver Twist, and then hide your body in the young adult section while they chase down #459 of The Babysitter's Club. Good people. Book people.

Join us.


The sale opens to the public on Thursday, September 24, and runs through Sunday, September 28. It's held at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion. There are buses that runs to Fort Mason; I take one myself. Check MUNI's Trip Planner to find the bus for you.

Go on Thursday if you prefer to be there with fewer people, though after 5:00 it probably picks up. I like Thursday because most of the people there are even more scary-obsessed than me, and being among my own kind means none of us feel compelled to smile or make eye contact or be social at all unless we feel like it. That doesn't mean you never wind up discussing books with a total stranger -- you do. But you don't have to be giving the meaningless California smile all the time either. It's relaxing.

Go on Sunday if you prefer to get the real bargains. On Sunday everything is marked down to a dollar or less, and in years past there's always been a huge selection left to choose from.