Book addicts get as much pride out of the size and variety of the stack of unread books waiting on their shelves (and the stories of buying those books) as they do from the amount of books they've read. Thrifty book addicts keep a sharp eye out for great book sales where they can find lost treasures and great deals to boast about for years to come. An out-of-print and pristine Jim Kjelgaard may very well be to one book addict what a 20 pound trout is to a fisherman (and be wary of photos of a book addict's big catch because they can get downright vulgar).
If you live in the Bay Area, a place where rent rates will literally strip the clothes right off your body while you're making your daily commute, getting a great deal on anything is vital to daily survival. Books are no exception, especially when they are the only thing keeping you from having a meltdown on public transit. That's why you can't miss the Friends of the Alameda Free Library Used Book Sales (even if you don't live in Alameda).
These epic sales are held a couple of times a year at the Dewitt O'Club in Alameda. Did I really say epic? Isn't that a clichéd exaggeration? No. Epic is the word that best describes these three-day sales. E-P-I-C. From the Friends of Alameda Free Library's website: "We take 800-1000 boxes of books to every sale. There are literally hundreds of items in every category. Most books are priced between 50¢ and $2.00."
I've been to the sale two years in a row now, and they aren't lying. The books fill three large rooms and cover every genre you could hope to find. There are new books, old books, classics. There are history books, biography, poetry, fiction, mystery, children's, teen, cookbooks, sports... There are hardcovers and soft covers. There are rare local books and bestsellers. Bring your lists, addicts, and behold the wonder.
The sales take place over three days (smash those piggy banks!). On Friday, there is usually a presale in the evening (from 6:30pm to 9pm). You pay $5 at the door, and the books are marked with their prices. If you are a Friend of the Alameda Free Library, you get two free tickets to this sale, and since membership only costs $10, why not join? Friday is a good day if you want the best selection. This also tends to be a day when the shoppers are friendlier, the lines shorter, and the aisles less packed with frenzied bookies.
That being said, this year there was a tall man literally running from table to table snatching up book after book and bulldozing anyone who crossed his path. By the end of my shopping experience, he had about seven giant IKEA bags filled with books. However, most of the other shoppers were not only calm but downright chatty. I had many pleasant conversations with other shoppers while browsing titles. One nice woman even offered to let me know if she saw one of the titles on my list.
On Saturday, admission is free, and the sale runs from 9am to 4pm. This day is fine for the casual book buyer who doesn't mind crowds but doesn't want to feel like he or she is shopping in a mosh pit. Books are priced as marked on Saturday.
For those who want to practice for Black Friday door busters, Sunday is your day. Sunday's sale is a clearance sale that runs from noon to 4pm. You can stuff a bag with books and pay just $3 or you can fill a box with books for $5. Or 20 bags. Or 100 boxes. No one is judging, I promise. But be warned, you have to keep all bags and limbs inside the ride at all times or you might literally be torn to pieces by bookies.
On Sunday, people will push you out of their way, run over you if you're blocking an aisle, and berate you eloquently but very loudly if you get too close to their boxes of books. This day is not for the faint hearted, but if you want a phenomenal deal, this day is a must. Once you get home with your prizes and have calmed your shaking hands with a stiff cup of coffee, you'll look back on Sunday's sale and laugh appreciatively. Plus, braving Sunday's mad crowds gives you golden boasting powers.
I'm not a crowd person, but I went to the Sunday sale last year, and I actually had a blast. Perhaps my body released a chemical that made me forget the pain of squeezing down aisle after aisle and risking fingers to reach in and secure titles. Regardless, I walked out of the sale last year with awesome gifts for my dad and enough books to last me the rest of the year (some are still on my waiting shelf).
This year, I opted for the presale, but I still walked away with a huge bag of books, many of which were on my reading list, and many more simply caught my eye. Although I did pay more for the books, I liked the calmer atmosphere of the presale.
If you go to these book sales, make sure to take your own bags, and make sure those bags are very stout and have strong handles. However, while you're shopping, if you fill a bag, there is a bag sitting area where you can safely store them until you're ready to pay (unless you want your exercise while you shop). If you go on Sunday, they do provide you with boxes, but take your own bags in case they run out.
The profits from these sales help fund some really great programs in Alameda including Alameda Reads, an adult literacy program. Please remember to donate your books to your local library so sales like these can continue and others can enjoy the adventures you loved.
Also, if you live in the Bay Area and don't have books to donate but want to give back to the book community, consider volunteering for one of these book sales. Volunteers are always needed and appreciated. Visit the Friends of the Alameda Free Library website for more info: http://www.friendsalamedafreelibrary.org/book_sales.html.