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My Favorite Saturdays: The BPL Book Sale

“…nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world, like ships on the sea.” – Roald Dahl

I splurged today, my friends. Big time. As I sit here, two overflowing shopping bags struggle to contain their bulges at my feet. This morning I bought a whopping 17 items in one trip. Shameless buying, I tell you!

Well, maybe I’d actually feel bad if the day’s total came to more than $14.

I’ve been anxiously waiting this morning for a few months now, ever since one Saturday last semester, when I was on my way out of the Boston Public Library after a morning of studying and stumbled upon a book sale in its basement. That day I made a life-altering discovery. I found out that the Citywide Friends of the BPL holds book sales the first Saturday of each even-numbered month. Both the library and individuals donate books to the sales, and proceeds benefit the library. Today’s one of those Saturdays.

I woke up today and scurried about, getting gussied up and making sure I would be on the B Line by 9, so I would have ample time to get to Copley before the makeshift store’s 10 o’clock opening. Equipped with an XL from Dunkin, I braced myself for the labyrinth of literary beauty that awaited me. I got to the library 15 minutes before the start, and unsurprisingly found a line of other thrifty book-seeking individuals whose eagnerness matched my own. When the door to the basement opened, you would’ve thought we were a bunch of kids heading outside for recess.

The book sale room is just what you’d expect. Each wall is a cornucopia of bookshelves, and overstuffed racks litter the center of the room as well. Books are organized into a bunch of categories: science and nature, religion and philosophy, science fiction, classics, biographies, and intentionally miscellaneous “browsing” sections, among others. An old man yells “announcements” at the murmuring shoppers: “Fifty percent off of romance novels in honor of Valentine’s Day!” and “Remember to pick up a free Pizzeria Uno coupon on your way out!”

Shopping baskets are available for the big spenders. And at the ever-so-steep price of $1 per book, there are lots of us. Since I got there early today, it is no surprise that I found some treasures. A biography of Carl Sagan, a complete history of China, Plato’s Five Dialogues, a Dean Koontz thriller, a college vegetarian cookbook, the story of Galileo, the memoirs of a Native American girl, a Chuck Palahniuk book, a book on bohemian lifestyles of the 20th century, and on, and on. And I must brag–my best find of the day is a very, very, old edition of Rousseau’s Confessions. I’m a big Rousseau fan and I just can’t wait to devour it. (Not to mention all of the free vinyl records they offer- I take a bunch and hang them on my wall to feel like a hipster.) There are treasures at each sale. In December, for example, I found a very old Kipling book and also bought a poetry anthology by a New England poet that was actually autographed, and I didn’t realize it until a few weeks later.

You may be wondering, “when the hell does this girl have the time to read all of these?!” The sad answer to that is that I really don’t. Like a fool, I overload my class schedule, and it leaves little time to read books that I choose for myself. The treasures I found will most likely sit on my dorm shelves until Spring Break, or even until the summer, when classes and activities no longer stand between us. My last BPL shopping spree financed my winter break’s worth of books, and this one should have me set for a long while. But let’s be real, I’ll be back for the April sale regardless. I couldn’t tell you how many unread volumes sit on my shelves at home, but I keep coming back to buy more. There are worse vices, I guess.

I don’t know about any of you, but I’m against e-readers and the like. The Confessions just wouldn’t be as real if I couldn’t hold each page of the volume in my hands. Even if books are on their way out, I’ll hold onto them as long as I can. I urge you all to come to these sales and to spend a day with them. Go shopping, feel like an “urban intellectual,” and then hang around the library to get some homework done, or stay in the city for lunch, etc. Though I prefer to spend these special mornings by myself and get some cherished me-time, I bet coming with friends would be a blast too. Turn your phones off, browse the shelves without worrying about how much time you’re spending, and allow yourself true leisure away from backlit screens. Together you can dive into all of the other worlds that authors have created for you to experience.

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