If you’ve ever been to a library book sale, you may be able to appreciate the need to speed date a book. You are standing with your paper bag in a narrow aisle. People are coming down each end toward you with their own bags or boxes. Someone is trying to look at books on the table behind you, squeezing a little closer than you’d like. The person to the left is studying the book in your hand, looking as though he is ready to grab it if you put it down. After all, he is interested in history, too, or he wouldn’t be at this table.
Quick! Make a decision and move on.
You put the book down, scoot your half-full bag a few inches with your foot and start checking the contents of the next box.
My most recent library book sale
I attended one day of the sale and bought one bag of sixteen books, a bargain at $10. I usually attend more days, but my house is full. Still, I cannot resist the lure and the possibility of finding just the book I need for whatever purpose comes to mind in the brief time I hold it in my hand. At this sale, I chose the books pictured above for the following reasons: category, title, cover.
Over the years, I have been through a number of category phases. For a long while, I bought books on health, fitness, weight loss, and diabetes. Cookbooks that aided those obvious goals were also high on my list. Gardening was a short-lived topic since everything I plant dies of neglect. I’ve also given up on books about fixing things, recognizing quite quickly that making repairs was not part of my skillset. If something breaks, I toss it and buy a new one. I’ve always bought almost anything that had to do with how to write fiction. I also buy books on writing non-fiction and poetry, but those forms have never been first on my list. Currently, the history table is my first stop. I now have three bookcases of books on various aspects of 18th and 19th-century American history.
When it comes to fiction, I was into vampires and other supernatural beings before they were popular. Now, I pass them by. I still like a good mystery, and young adult fiction that centers on family also gets my attention. I have always enjoyed historical fiction, but now I seek it out first, again because the fiction I am writing is set in the 19th century.
As in sales past, the most recent was a treasure trove of non-fiction American history. Here are some of my finds:
The Historian as Detective: Essays on Evidence edited by Robin w. Winks. After the title, it was the book blurb on the front that pulled me in: “The adventurous search for clues to scholarly hoaxes, forgeries, and lost and misleading documents, and the evaluation of evidence in man’s study of his own past.” Ever since I tried to figure out whether there were any buildings in Pawnee, Kansas Territory, besides the one where the first territorial legislature met, I’ve been wondering about evaluating sources. This book might help. It also might give me some ideas for future stories.
The Ohio by R. E. Banta, a part of the Rivers of America series. I picked this one because I had read another book in the series, The Kaw by Floyd Benjamin Streeter, and been impressed with it. I was also looking for a setting I could use for the backstory of the True and Pierce families. The description on the inside of the book jacket sold me on the book: “The Ohio . . . begins in dark mystery with mastodons and mound builders, glints through the sombre moonlight of savage forests and the bloody colonial frontier. It flashes into the full daylight of dynamic middle America of the nineteenth century, and it rolls on today past the infernal glow of steel furnaces, thundering manufacturing cities, and seething populations–into a future with immense implications.” Okay, so people were bumping me from either side, scrunching behind me while I stood making up my mind. I decided if the writing inside was as interesting as that on the flap, I had to have it.
The Reshaping of Everyday Life 1790-1840 by Jack Larkin. The time period captured my attention along with a back cover promise of “an astonishing range of activities. These include infant feeding; the care of chamber pots, privies, and grave yards; the use of broadside ballads, parlor songs, and communal dances; the celebration of holidays and routines of travel; the production, design and use of clothing and household items; even the treatment of pets.” Wow! What a combination. And there’s more. Information about important historical events is easy to find, but finding the small details of everyday life is often difficult. This book was another must-have.
Come back for Part II
I’m only through the first three books and this post is already too long. If you are interested in additional historical finds, come back for the next library sale post. In the meantime, if you like historical fiction and family sagas, check out my Pierce Family Saga blog. If you like to influence what books are published, check out For Want of a Father, the second book in the series and nominate it for publication if you like what you see.