Friday I walked up to the small tent set up outside the basement entrance to May Memorial Library in Burlington. “I can shop at the Fall Book Sale today if I join the Friends of the Library, correct?” I asked the two women operating in the makeshift shade on a sunny afternoon.
“Aren’t you a member already?” one woman asked, obviously puzzled. I assured her I wasn’t but that I always planned to be, paid the $10 fee and moved into the side entrance on Davis Street. It’s the gateway to thousands of used books of every description sold at bargain prices with proceeds going to one of my favorite causes — the public libraries in Alamance County.
And when I say thousands of books, well, that’s low-balling it. It’s thousands upon thousands.
The Friends of the Library in Alamance County conduct this sale twice a year. I generally go to both, but always make the fall sale my priority — even though strictly speaking it’s not really fall yet. I’m not sure why the September sale is so appealing. Maybe it’s something to do with the end of summer and the start of a school year. The smell of books is already in the air, feeding my hunger to read for the next several months. And at $3 per hardback book and $1.50 for each paperback I can buy my weight in books and still afford to have an extra couple of hot dogs and Cheerwine at Zack’s then go to Smitty’s for ice cream. The sale is one of my favorite Alamance County events.
This year I decided to go on opening day, a time reserved for members of the Friends of the Library. Historically I attend sometime in the first week — this year it started on Sept. 8 and continues to Sept. 18 — and still make a couple of neat finds. Often I go back toward the end of the sale to see what I might have overlooked the first time. That’s how many titles are there. It’s pretty incredible. I often wondered what I might be missing on that first day.
So Friday I entered as a true Friend of the Library, not just a loyal acquaintance. I was rewarded immediately — without leaving the first of several rooms.
As usual, I moved toward the baseball and sports section first. I’m a reader and collector of books about sports, especially baseball. I scarfed up four titles immediately: “Stan Musial, An American Life,” by George Vecsey; “Tony La Russa, Man on a Mission,” by Rob Rains; “Chasing Moonlight,” by Brett Friedlander and Robert Reising; and “A Great and Glorious Game, Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti.”
Those finds alone made it a wonderful day. The Musial book hits upon my interests in the history of baseball and in the St. Louis Cardinals. George Vecsey is one of America’s best sports writers and reporters of the past few decades as a columnist for the New York Times. I’m going to love this one. The La Russa book is a must for me as a Cardinals fan. While I wasn’t always enamored with La Russa’s managing style (call it micro-micro), I could never argue with his incredible run of success not only in St. Louis but also with the Chicago White Sox and Oakland A’s.
But the other two are the standouts. “Finding Moonlight” is the true story behind Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, a character in the W.P. Kinsella novel “Shoeless Joe” — a book that became the popular film “Field of Dreams.” Graham is true-life North Carolina native who did play professional baseball. Friedlander is a former sports writer with the Fayetteville Observer. I look forward to reading this starting, well, immediately.
I can start on it right away because I’ve already finished the wonderful collection of Giamatti’s scholarly, wise and passionate words about baseball and its place in the American psyche and culture. Giamatti was a college professor, president of Yale University and president of the National League before he was named commissioner of baseball. He served in that post for only five months prior to his untimely death (heart attack) in 1989, just a week after his most famous action in the job — banning Pete Rose from baseball for life. His statement upon banishing Rose for gambling on baseball as a player and manager is included among these highly readable and enlightening essays. This is a book that will be by my side often. I’ll cite it more in future posts, I’m certain.
Two more books found their way into my bag on Friday and both will follow me to my office at Elon University. One was written by Durward Stokes, a longtime historian in Alamance County. “Elon College, It’s History and Traditions” will make a nice complement to the most recent Elon University history produced by professor emeritus George Troxler.
And maybe my favorite find of the day was also in the section of books from or about the Tar Heel state. I couldn’t believe my good fortune at seeing an almost new copy of “The North Carolina Gazetteer.” First produced in 1968 by William S. Powell, it’s billed as a dictionary of Tar Heel places. It’s that and far more. The Gazetteer is an indispensable reference book for people writing about North Carolina. In it people can look up the names of hundreds of counties, cities, towns, villages, communities and sites throughout the state. Want to know how many places in North Carolina have the world “wolf” in the name? It’s in the Gazetteer. It’s 40, by the way, including my favorite, Wolfscrape in Duplin County. It can be an expensive book. Because it’s a paperback I got it for the nifty sum of $1.50. Righteous.
So if you add in the Carl Hiassen paperback I found to read on a flight later this month, that’s a total of seven books — five hardbacks — for $18. Two I’ll use extensively at work. Four will be read and enjoyed. One will be a part of me forever.
That’s a pretty good deal, all things considered. When you factor in that the Book Sale has generated more than $1 million for Alamance Libraries over the last 32 years, it becomes one helluva deal and service to our community. How could anyone who loves reading and books not go?
Now I’ll have to figure out what day I’ll head back before it ends on Sept. 18.