SPL Book Sale Finds

I’ve been to the Friends of the Seattle Public Library Book Sale a bunch of times over the years, but I’d never volunteered to help out before. The sale actually started Saturday out in one of the huge hangars in Magnuson Park here in Seattle, but someone needs to unbox books and lay them out on the tables, and on Friday that was me, along with a bunch of retirees.

It was pretty daunting. There were a hell of a lot of boxes to unpack and the hall is massive. When I got there I was pointed to the mystery section, but it’s honestly a genre I have little interest in. A few minutes later, though, I overheard folks a few tables over debating what language a book was at the Foreign Languages table, so I sidled over and said I could help — pretty much my only talent in life is recognizing langauges by sight. You need someone to differentiate Hungarian from Romanian from Turkish from Slovenian? I’m your guy. So I spent most of my time organizing and lining up books by language. I got pretty sick of Spanish books by the time I was done.

As part of the deal you get a voucher for some free books. There are fewer and fewer good old mass-market-sized classics at the sales (same thing at e.g. Half-Price Books, although the Magus in the U. District still carries a ton, god bless them). The non-library holdings for sale are getting to be more hardcover or recent trade paperbacks, which are easy enough to pick up at the library anyway. But I found a few gems:


This looks to be a great collection of Yeats prose and poetry — I’m crazy about these 60s Signet Classics, and occasionally as with older Penguins and Pelicans I’ll pick up one I’m not hugely interested in just for the feel and look of it. That’s not the case here as I do like Yeats, though I’m not sure about the sultry boy-band type portrait. He looks like a self-adoring young punk who frankly doesn’t care whether the center can hold or not.

One I wouldn’t have necessarily grabbed if it weren’t for the Signet status, and the cover, is this Maupassant:


That is just luscious. I’ve been meaning to dip into Maupassant for a while but never really got around to it, so this seemed to be a good opportunity. Aside from the beautiful watercolor cover though, this one really makes you (or me anyway) stop and think about the difference between the book market in the 60s and today. What made Signet think this was a moneymaker? Obviously the copyright had lapsed, but they still had to pay a translator. What’s so lovely about this book is that someone cared enough about literature to drop this into the line-up whether it would generate revenue or not. I hope whoever that civilized and civilizing soul was, he or she had a satisfying career.

My third find was this selection from the Penguin Poets series:


This is my fourth book in this great Penguin series. I also found the Canadian Poetry one, but couldn’t quite get myself to buy it. It looked a little meager — sorry Canada! I still think you guys are aces.

My fourth and last book was this biography of Ruskin — two volumes squeezed into one fatty as deep as it is wide, practically. Good biographies of Victorians are always a pleasure. I still leaf through Janet Browne’s Darwin bio from time to time.