The Annual Rotary Book Sale

I spent $11 today on two books: a 1909 Chatterbox in fair condition ($9) and the second instalment of Alexander McCall Smith’s Number One Detective Agency. I missed out on the Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition) for $5 because I wasn’t sure which edition I already have. It turned out to be the 13th, but by the time I got back to the mall, CMS (15th) had disappeared, whisked away I’m sure by someone equally aware of what a steal it was at the price.

I love the Rotary book sale. I discovered when I first moved here that it’s a fixture every October. The trestle tables go up on Saturday, long double lines marching the length of the mall. After the tables, the table signs: Geography, Sex and Family, Religion, Literature, Nature, Art, Canadiana, Special Books (that’s generally where I look first), Ethics, Politics, and so on. Miles of Fiction. The books are trucked in on Saturday night, unboxed and arranged, and on Sunday morning at 7am the sale opens for business.

I generally find a recent best seller or two that I didn’t want to pay full hardcover price for; you can usually find a few, though they don’t linger. I’ll usually pick out one or two authors I want to try; fiction is priced from $2-5—cheaper than the paperback versions would be—so you can get several without breaking the bank.

But the Special Books are my favourites, old editions, sometimes first editions, obscure subjects and odd-sized books. One year I found a Folio version of Nancy Mitford’s Pursuit of Love, cloth-bound and slipcased, for $8. Another year I picked up a Norman Rockwell book, a coffee-table sized work with the entire collection of his Saturday Night covers. That set me back $20 and a sprained wrist lugging it home. But I enjoyed it no end, browsing a few pages at a time over several years. Now it’s taking up space and collecting dust and I’m going to give it back and let them sell it to someone else.

That’s how they make money, the Rotary Club. It’s rumoured they clear about $80,000 a year from the book sale alone, though that may be wildly fanciful; I wouldn’t know. But they do plenty of good things round town with their earnings, and I can’t think of an easier nor better way to contribute than to buy books I love to read.

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