If You Were Me Today

You wake up to the alarm, hit the snooze button and drift back into lala-land.

As you rise to the surface of consciousness your heart twitters: today is “High Holy Day”!  It is the first day of the annual Book Fair at the local university, the only opportunity for thrift books in your region. You close your eyes and smile, picturing the long tables covered with books.  You review the best snatches from previous years, and rejoice at the precious ones. 

Your son lets you borrow his car because yours is getting repaired.  You assure your husband that this year you will be reasonable.  Selective.  Discriminating.  You stop before you say Self-Controlled.

You go to work at the pharmacy where you are training for a new job because your life is in transition from home school mom to working woman.  But they know the significance of this day and you have leave to go to lunch at 10:45.

You arrive at the gymnasium where the sale opens, at a $5 premium, for the first hour.  To your dismay, you see Pastor Steele smack at the front of the line.  Pastor Steele has a doctorate, loves history, is a Calvinist–any good book you’d hope to snag will be grabbed by him first.  You also believe in providence, and wonder which books are predestined to go home with you.  You recall with relief the conversation where he insisted he didn’t read fiction.   

All chitchat ceases when the door opens.  Your $5 bill is ready, your Office Depot paper box is in hand and you scope, zoom, do a little skip-trot-jog step while trying to maintain an outward picture of dispassionate serenity.  You promise yourself you won’t stalk Pastor Steele trying to see what his box holds. 

The first table is passed up by all ten of the book sharks.  An opportunity! You plant yourself, tilt your head to read titles, throwing “worthy” books in your box as quickly as you can.  There’s always time to weed later, but if you don’t get it in your box, one of those sharks will snap it up.  You sneak a sidewards glance at the bookstore owner who is starting to fill his second box.  That’s okay: he has a family to feed. 

You start the second combing, letting your fingers flutter over the spines.  You are rewarded with a few titles which previously escaped you.

For twenty minutes you work quickly and intently.  Then you straighten, rub your back, take a breath and start working the room methodically. Satisfied with your catch, you pony up to the checkout table and pay your bill.

You return to work, mentally writing a blog entry whenever the internet hesitates.  You authorized a $9,055.00 payment to a vendor whose invoice is $90.55.  After canceling your overpayment, you go home to take an inventory and let your friends, folks fascinated by the banal detritus of your life, see the results.

Travel Books

Of Men and Mountains, William O. Douglas
Facing the Congo, A Modern-Day Journey into the Heart of Darkness, Jeffrey Tayler
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby (preface by Evelyn Waugh)
Skeletons On the Zahara, A True Story of Survival, Dean King
In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson
A Passage to India, E. M. Forster
1.000 Places to See Before You Die, Patricia Schultz (x 2!)

Art and Music

A World of Art, Henry M. Sayre
Stomping the Blues, Albert Murray
Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Founding Brothers, Joseph J. Ellis
Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel (hardback, gift condition)
Tank versus Tank, Kenneth Macksey
Band of Brothers, Stephen E. Ambrose
German Boy, A Child in War, Wolfgang Samuel, Forw Stephen Ambrose
The Gathering of Zion, The Story of the Mormon Trail, W. Stegner
Desert Diary, Louise Van Dyke

Social History

How the Other Half Lives, Jacob A. Riis (a 1929 hardback)
Home, Witold Rybczynski
Rats, Robert Sullivan
Library, An Unquiet History, Matthew Battles


New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant
Olives, The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit, Mort Rosenblum
Quilts are Forever, A Patchwork of Insp. Stories, Kathy Lamancusa
Spirit of the Kitchen, Jane Alexander
Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, Anne Wilson Schaef
I Married You, Walter Trobisch


The Oxford History of Western Philosophy, ed. Anthony Kenny
The Courage to Teach, Parker J. Palmer
A Critic’s Notebook, Irving Howe


One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexandre Dumas
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
3 By Flannery O’Connor
The Old Order, Stories of the South, Katherine Anne Porter
The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
The Bean Tree, Barbara Kingsolver
The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy

Children’s Books

Rascal, Sterling North
Redwall, Brian Jacques
Mossflower, Brian Jacques
Winterdance, The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod, G. Paulsen
Heidi, Johanna Spyri, illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith!!
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Multiplication Book, Jerry Pallotta
Book, George Ella Lyon, Peter Catalanotto
I Spy Gold Challenger, A Book of Picture Riddles
Holes, Louis Sachar
A Year Down Yonder, Richard Peck

You take a deep breath and smile. You stop gloating and start looking for a place to shelve the books.



19 thoughts on “If You Were Me Today

  1. You forgot to tell us how much you spent, dear  The ones that stood out to me right off the bat are the story of the Mormon Trail and the quilt book (that I’d like to read). But why, oh why, Flannery O’Connor??? You never cease to surprise me, girl!

  2. I giggled all the way through this!  Yes, book hunting is a serious sport and a person has to have strategy!  Sounds like you bagged some good ones.We had planned to go to the Greater St. Louis Bookfair this week, which would be 3 days of book buying glory. Our plans had to be canceled, unfortunately, but I’m hoping to go next year. The only downside to going to a booksale with my husband is that he buys as much as I do and I end up having to carry my own box

  3. To me, the last part – finding place on the shelves – creates a similar feeling to bringing home bags of groceries: I feel so rich!  If “you were me today” you probably wouldn’t have used the word detritus 

  4. I was right there with you as I read this entertaining post, Carol.  You are too funny and I loved the distraction of the misplaced decimal point.  I’ve done exactly that :)You know, Miss O’Connor is from Georgia and her family home, Andalusia is open to the public.Come visit

  5. Smiling all the way through this one.  Got a special grin out of the overpayment you authorized, one accountant to another. 😉 The fiction list contains several favorites. I got “100 Years” from Paperback Swap but haven’t opened it yet.  It’s one of Terry’s faves and I tried to read it 20 years ago and just couldn’t get through it.  Prince of Tides is very good.  I was thinking of Beach Music, my favorite Pat Conroy that has haunted me for decades.Good luck finding shelf space.  My pbs books are piled rather haphazardly while I wait to go through all my books to find more to list for swap.

  6. @LimboLady – I spent $46 (not including the $5 which I consider entertainment   We’ve talked about Flannery before, haven’t we?  Full disclosure: I’ve never read one thing by her, but I just received The Habit of Being, The Letters of Flannery O’Connor, which I plan to read first.  The short answer: because Pastor Steele didn’t.@toomanyhats – there must be some good sales over there?@hopeinbrazil – where do you find your books, Hope?@PoiemaPortfolio – three days?  And a husband who buys as much as you do?  That sounds like heaven!@sonskyn –  Sonya, you are so funny!  I never know which English word I use will throw you.  If I were you I’d be dancing a jig that I was bilingual.@hiddenart –  You keep placing enticements in my way!  Have you read any of Miss O’Connor’s work?   OH!  I ordered Willie Was Different (Norman Rockwell’s only children’s book for the rest of you) from Paperbackswap last night.  Thanks for the tip!@secros60 –  I have never read a sentence of Pat Conroy’s, but people keep telling me that I would like him.  I just received The Water Is Wide in the mail yesterday.

  7. Great books!  What providence!  I always pray before going to a book sale: For freedom from a covetous heart, for gratefulness for what books He provides for me, and for a joyful, generous attitude toward other book-hunters.This morning I’ll be helping our Friends of the Library set up the books for tomorrow’s book sale, so I’ll get first pick of whatever I want – fill a bag for $5.Our library also gives away discards and yesterday I took three armloads of books home.  I’d happily send you any discards if you let me know what you’d like!

  8. @LauraLLD – Joyful, generous attitude!  Come live with me, okay?  One of my mantras with my kids was “People are more important than ______”  (fill in the blank: television, etc.).  Last year at the sale, an old friend saw me and started chatting up a storm.  At first I was inwardly agitated, preferring to get books first and visit later.  My words brought me up short and I just looked her in the eye and talked.Thank you for your generous offer.  I have more books than I deserve as it is.  What a deal though – a bag for $5.  We pay $1 an inch measuring the stack of books.  It used to be 50 cents/inch and on the last day a bag of books for $1. 

  9. About Flannery O’Connor… I own Wise Blood and have tried to finish it…. and read other bits and pieces by her.  I think her imagery is good, but sometimes odd.  Also, and forgive me for this, but her R. Catholicism keeps me at arm’s length.

  10. Flannery O’Connor – I’ve read A Good Man Is Hard to Find (her short stories). If I compare her short stories with W. Berry’s, I’d say that both of them have the gift to epitomize one chapter (one book? perhaps) in a single sentence. According to Invitations to the Classics,– her stories dramatize moments of crisis that can catch people offguard, leaving them in dangerous and awkward positions – moments when grace can intervene. While reading the stories experienced those moments of being caught awkwardly offguard. Her stories touched a different part of my soul than did Berry’s. On being bilingual: I have a few advantages – the keyboard is patient, you can’t see how slow my fingers type, and my mouth is silent   

  11. Carol, to answer your question, I buy A LOT of books on furlough at yard sales, library sales, thrift stores.  I’ve mailed as many as a hundred books back to Brazil to read for the next 4 years stint.  Since we  moved to Sao Paulo I’ve discovered the sales at the American school library.  Twice a year they sell all of the donated books they don’t want.  Of course, the most prominent books are best sellers which don’t interest me, but occasionally I find a treasure.  From the last two sales I got: All Quiet on the Western Front, More Rootabaga Stories by Sandburg, The Bird in the Tree by Goudge, The Color of Water by McBride and Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose.  Pretty good for 50 cents apiece!  Unlike you I don’t usually have a rival shopper looking for my kind of books. =)

  12. I hope I didn’t offend you, Dana. I just find Miss O’Connor’s writing a bit dark, shall we say. Strange is a better word. I’ve read quite a few of her short stories and they always seem to fall short of satisfactory. But she is highly esteemed, so what do I know?I’m reading “All Quiet on the Western Front” right now and it’s a fast read so far.And just out of curiosity,, which one do you think you will read first, Carol?

  13. Love this post! I wasn’t able to attend our big spring library sale (even the last 1/2 hour of a bag of books for a buck) so it was fun to “attend” yours. Cheers! Enjoy reading all those pretty books on your shelves.  

  14. Pardon me while I wipe the drool off my mouth…….you have set me a coveting, dear Carol.  WHAT A GREAT STASH.My favorite part of your narrative?  The pastor in front of you, reminding yourself of the truth of Providence, AND being happy about his lack of fiction reading.  I can easily imagine hearing all of that in my own head (-:  Happy Reading,DI

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