Did you have book fairs at your school growing up? I went to a public elementary school in the US. Once a year, my school district would host the “Scholastic Book Fair” to visit the school and turn the gymnasium into a little market filled with tables piled with books and other colorful stationary and school supplies. In anticipation of the book fair, students would receive a catalogue of all books that would be available for purchase. I remember as a kid how I excited I would get about the prospect of leaving class early to shop for books.
Today, when I walked into the office, I was surprised to find someone had left all sorts of items in the common area to give away. Stacked along one table was a row of books! Some were novels, others reference materials, but also different sorts of non-fiction. Prominently, there were many books on raising children as well as a fair amount of children’s books. Today is New Year’s Day and no one is actually expected to be in the office, so when I walked into this scene, I felt as though I had walked into my own (second-hand) book fair.
There is something about free stuff that is inherently appealing. One book I picked up was “Wuthering Heights,” by Emily Brontë. I read this book in high school (not because it was assigned or anything, but simply because it was frequently referenced in the Twilight series…). I do remember liking “Wuthering Heights,” but I never had any serious plans to re-read it. However, today, when I saw the book–this version printed small pages–I instantly knew that I wanted to take this as an opportunity to re-read the classic.
Another book I saw was the “English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje. I’ve never read this book, but I am familiar with the title and know that it is regarded as a power piece of literature set in the backdrop of WWII. If I were in a bookstore, I would never have looked twice at the book, however, because it was free and literally right in front of me, I was very eager to add this book to my list. Other classics that I considered were “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn– the sad tale of a prisoner in a Soviet Gulag–as well as, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s romantic classic “Love in the Time of Cholera.”
There is something so alluring about books. At first glance, a shelf full of books is like any other product–shoes, toys, clothing, etc. However, when you think about it, books are so incredibly different. I spent several minutes scanning the covers, reading the backs, and leafing through the pages of the books, only to come to superficial conclusions about the items. Shopping for books can be kind of like a treasure hunt in this way. Flashy covers can beguile tired texts, while lackluster titles can obsecure true works of art. Of course, there are books that just don’t appeal to me, for example, “How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex,” however, there were many more books that held promise for one reason or another.
It is 2020, Dear Reader, and I would like to read more non-fiction. While I consume audiobooks like water, I mostly stick to psychological thrillers. I will continue to listen to fiction, but at the same time, I found this book fair to be a great chance to stock up on some non-fiction titles for the new year. I say this a lot, but I mean it every time, “sometimes it’s the little things,” Dear Reader, like arriving at an empty office on a holiday and finding a pile of second-hand books that make you happy. I hope you too, will find little, unexpected moments of joy in 2020.
Happy New Year to you all!