Saturday, April 25, 2009

Yard Sales


So it's spring, and around here spring means the start of yard sale season.

Do you buy books at yard sales? When you host a yard sale, do you find that you're able to sell them?

When I was a kid, we didn't have a lot of money and the public library couldn't always satisfy my appetite for books, so I figured something out. Not that I could find interesting books at yard sales. All I found at yard sales were cheesy romances and pulp thrillers. No, I figured out that I could buy paperbacks in good condition for cheap money (a quarter, fifty cents), then sell them to my local used bookstore for credit- and make money. Then I bought the shop's half-off paperbacks- and found the books I was looking for. I bought Tolstoy's short stories, I found a wonderful book called Christ Stopped At Eboli, which at the time I thought no one else had ever heard of but was a marvelous read. I found Dostoevsky and Gandhi's autobiography, poetry anthologies and plays and all kinds of things that helped form my tastes over the years.

Sometimes I found stuff to read at yard sales too. Once, after coming home from a day of yard-shopping, I realized that I had bought two copies of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude at two separate yard sales- and then decided that, hey, maybe I should read it! It turned out to be one of my favorite books. And I used to collect French-language grammar books at yard sales, which I would use to study. (Yes, I bought extra textbooks so I could spend extra time studying.) Then, when I was a senior in high school and part of the school's Russian exchange program, I met a girl named Natasha who was trying to study French on her own. I traded her a pile of my grammar books for a bag full of souvenirs she brought to give Americans- postcards, those little metal pins, matryoshka dolls, all kinds of things. And I still have everything she gave me.

Nowadays when I browse at yard sales it's not with an eye to selling and I rarely find something I'm desperate to read. Sometimes though (like this morning), for a dollar or less I'll take a chance. The sale I visited today had stacks of Marian Keyes, Jennifer Weiner and the like, and I picked up something cute-looking for a buck. The last time I hosted a sale, books were the hardest things to sell, and next time I'm not sure I'd even bother. It's still fun though, to peek into what other people have read and then, once in a while, experiment a little. What's your yard-sale story?