Where have all the books gone?

When you reach a certain age, in my case 26, you wake up early for things like a new bag of coffee and community garage sales.


It’s 8am on a Saturday. I am in an empty home coming off of a night of intense self-care. (Hair masques and face masks and teeth whitening and lots of water.) I am eager to be picked up by my married friend in her new SUV to hop around our neighborhood with another friend, scouring through other people’s things. I’m careful to dress myself casually, in my favorite long sleeve t-shirt and some leggings. I draw on my eyebrows so I look…. let’s say, approachably effortless. Manicured nails around a leather-bound thermos.


We go from house to house, street to street, in our semi-bare faces and artificially whitened smiles and tempered “Well, good morning!”’s. Most homes we encounter are raising money for charity, and not their own profit. We donate to these houses. It’s all baby clothes and kids’ toys and VHS tapes and very tired looking shoes that are no one’s size. And, of course, books.


Lots and lots of books.


My friend, Kara, whom I associate with reading among other noble, “I wish I did more of that” things, is the first of us to appreciate the books. As she is picking up works and scanning their back covers, I  picture her on her blue sofa with a coffee (Even though I’m not sure she drinks it. This is my imagination, okay?) reading something she just cannot tear away from. The way I cannot be torn away from a makeup tutorial on Instagram or The Handmaids Tale on hulu. (I was able to be torn away from the book, however, well written.) The thought makes me want to rifle through the books as well. Makes me want a blue sofa. And more coffee.


I flop through the titles. Mostly hardback books. They seem sturdy and interesting. Some seem nostalgic with their turquoise type and 90’s fonts. As seems to be the aesthetic of garage sales. An homage to “a time when.” Some are familiar, only because of the movies I chose to not see made in their likeness. Most are obscure.  I ask the homeowner how much for the books without looking away. “$0.50!” she shouts back. I’m wide eyed with astonishment and reach for the obscure.


“Fifty cents,” I say in my mind, imagining myself shaking my own head. They wanted ten dollars for a vase that I would have to clean and spray paint and thirty for a shoe rack. But the books are of no value to them. Perhaps they’ve already been read, or perhaps it is understood that they will simply never be read. Maybe they’ve already been downloaded onto a tablet or the audio version has been already worn out on their last road trip or during their commute. Maybe they purchased these books at another garage sale giving their profits to charity in an attempt to soothe their guilt ridden conscience. `


Maybe they were just desperate to be rid of these books. Maybe they’re all just terrible, terrible works of literature.


Either way– they’re mine now. All four of them. For two dollars.  The only other thing I was able to get for fifty cents were candles, which, by contrast, are menial. Burnt and then gone forever. Lit once and then invisible after that. Their fleeting sense (scents?) of tranquility nothing but disposable.


But can the same be said for books? I’ve only reread a few books. All C.S. Lewis works. All essentially self-help in some way. But they exist, still, on a shelf somewhere in my house. I call on them when I can find nothing else to call upon. Oh, and of course, The Bible. That gets reread with every wave of spirituality that overcomes me. Usually once every few months. Never sequentially. Both works are parachutes in some crevice of my mind that get pulled in times of despair. Never for leisure. Never for recreation.


So would I ever forfeit my Bible or my Mere Christianity or my Problem of Pain at a garage sale? For two quarters? Never. But perhaps my Eat. Pray. Love. or my In Defense of Food. Actually, you could just have those if you wanted. No charge. They’re taking up space at this point….

I know what happens at the end of both of those…

It’s 8:30am on Monday. Today.  I am combing through Twitter Moments as is my source of relevant news. I come across two trending articles. One, a work of devastating beauty by Ta-Nehisi Coates about Kanye West. The other, a piece on how Barnes & Noble is heading for Blockbuster status. Both are TL;DR, but, alas, I read them. A sacrifice I make for the sake of feeling superior. For being able to publicly praise them accurately. For being informed. I read them for free and with the click of a tiny “x” in an upper corner of a browser, dispose of them.

The Ta-Nehisi Coates essay inspires me to no end but also makes me feel so inadequate as a writer that I stopped writing this very post about three times. The Barnes & Noble headline evokes little emotion, but does makes me say, aloud:

“Well of course they’re going under. I can get a book for fifty cents at a garage sale.”


Both.. make me want to buy more books.


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