My Annual Book Paradise


Every year I look forward to the second weekend in February. An exhibition building at the state fairgrounds transforms into a book lover’s paradise with row after row of books. We’re talking thousands upon thousands of used books at ridiculously cheap prices all up for grabs for those willing to get up early and pick through the stacks. For 60 years, the VNSA Book Sale has offered this annual event.

Better yet, on Sunday everything is half off the sticker price!! It’s like the bibliophile and bargain hunter in me combine forces for an ultimate day of fun. I’ve written of this magical day previously, (see Bookapalooza and Another Great Book Adventure), but it never gets old. This year’s book adventure yielded some fantastic finds!

For my reading pleasure, I stocked up on some fiction from authors I know as well as a few I don’t. As usual, I relied on my Book Vibe to select a few wild card books to shake up my reading year. Out of the known authors, I’m thrilled to get my hands on works by Banana Yoshimoto and Milan Kundera. Nothing in my fiction stack cost more than $2.


Hmmm … What should I read first!?

The Art History book sitting at the bottom is a golden find. I’m lugging that thing to work as an added resource for the AP Art History course I teach. It includes sections on African, Oceanic, and Korean art that my other textbooks lack. The best part is it was only $4!

My favorite finds of the day came from the craft section. I loaded up on knitting magazines and books. My favorite knitting magazine, Interweave Knits, was plentiful in supply at only 50¢ a piece. I snagged several knitting books for around $2 each; all full of new patterns and techniques.


This should keep me busy!


So much to knit, so little time!

However, my favorite knitting book find is Knitting for Peace. I’m looking to start a knitting club at the school where I work that teaches students how to knit, while also benefiting charity. This book offers charity information, patterns, and advice for setting up a club of this nature.


Knitting can make a difference!

Buried in the craft section was a gem of a book called Japanese Stencil Designs. For only 50¢ I got a stunning collection of prints that are reproducible. I’m thinking these prints are going to look awesome when paired with some of my haiku –  a chapbook is on the horizon!


Japanese Stencil Print

Along with a few other odds and ends, the grand total came to $36. Between cheap books and time with family (we always go together), it was a perfect day!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016


Beautiful Book Inscriptions


One of my favorite things about shopping in a used a bookstore is finding a book that has an inscription.  Whether it be a name or a note, a handwritten inscription gives my sense of curiosity a jolt.  It’s like I’m getting two stories for the price of one!  During my travels around the world and frequent visits to local used bookstores, I’ve come across my fair share of inscribed books. However, there are a few that really stick out in my mind as being the most interesting.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam (Translated by Edward FitzGerald)

I came across this book at used book fair shortly after starting my career as a teacher.  When I opened it up and saw the inscription, I knew it was kismet that brought me to this book.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

– – –

Ticket to Ride by Dennis Potter

The inscription in this book has baffled me from the very beginning in that I don’t know if it is quoted material from a known writer or if it is a memory written by a poetic soul.  Either way, I find it to be a hilarious beginning to a great story.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

If anyone recognizes these lines, please let me know in the comments! I’ve done everything from library to google searches and have come up with nothing.

– – –

The Vagabond by Colette

When I first picked up this book, I thought it would be a nice weekend read.  After opening the cover and reading such a wonderful letter the book instantly became more meaningful to me as I travel the path of a writer.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Wherever Laura is now, I hope she is living out loud!

– – –

The Right of Way by Gilbert Parker

I’ve always loved this very simple inscription, because 110 years ago someone got this book as a Christmas gift.  I can’t help but wonder how that particular Christmas was celebrated and who the lucky recipient was of such a nice gift.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

– – –

Aside from used bookstores, I’ve inherited a number of books with inscriptions. Sometimes the signatures relate to past and present family members, while others do not.  Either way, they are very special to me as I remember seeing the writing in these books as a child.

Stories of Great Musicians (Eclectic Readings Series)

This book sat on my grandparents’ bookshelf the entire time I was growing up. I must have read it dozens of times! I wonder if Edward practiced the way Mary hoped he would.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Photob by: c.b.w. 2012

– – –

The Complete Works of Shakespeare

My grandmother owned this edition for a long time before handing it down to my aunt, who then gave it to me.  It’s one of my treasured possessions as I love Shakespeare and the history that has gathered in the pages of the leather-bound beauty. I love it when a list of names fills up the first page of a book like a family tree of sorts.

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

– – –

Holy Bible

My grandmother held this book in her hands when she was a little girl.  I’ve had it since I was about 13 years old and have somehow managed to keep an inscribed loose page from wandering off!

Photo by: c.b.w. 2012

 Every book on my shelf has a story, but those with ink-stained pages are the ones I love best.

– – –

Special Note: You don’t have to squint to read these fantastic inscriptions. Click on any image for a full-size view!

– – –

c.b.w. 2012



Every year, during the second weekend of February, something magical happens at the state fairgrounds.  Inside of the exhibition hall, thousands upon thousands of used books are unpacked and displayed on endless rows of tables.  As if the idea of thousands of books under one roof isn’t enough to make any bibliophile drool, they go ahead and price these books at unbelievably low prices.  A hardcover bestseller goes for about $4, while a paperback dons a $1 sticker.  Better still, on Sunday, everything (except rare books) is half off.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

For the last eight years, it’s been a family tradition to attend the VNSA Book Sale and replenish our stock of books.  This is the place to go for a truly amazing selection as they’ve got everything from fiction, literature, history, reference, poetry, art, suspense, YA, cookbooks, crafts, and about a million other genres!   Sunday morning we wake up bright and early, pack our large canvas bags, and practice using “Black Friday” elbows.  It gets pretty crowded with eager book shoppers all looking for a great deal.  If you don’t grab a book when you see it, someone else will swipe right out from under your nose!  Another thing to watch out for are the infamous “cart blockers,” who will use a shopping cart to block a section of a table to keep other shoppers from grabbing books.  Little do they know I have no problem moving their cart out of the way.  Only a newbie falls for that trick!

The entrance to Book Heaven

When the doors open at 8 a.m. the line streams into the exhibition building, with everyone running to their favorite section.  I always head straight for fiction first and spend at least an hour combing through every row and every box looking for favorite and new authors alike.  My Book Vibe goes into serious overdrive at this point, but it still steers me right every single year.  After fiction, I jet over to the craft section to check out needlework and sewing pattern books.  Then, its off cookbooks to see if I can find the ever elusive British recipe book.

In the Fiction Trenches

The family always regroups after an hour to check in and drop off books in the holding area before heading out for another hour (or more) of book hunting.  During the second phase, I head to classics to track down books that fall under the heading of, “books I should read, but haven’t gotten around to yet.”  After that, I hit the history section to expand my collection of Ancient Egyptian studies and the art section to see if there’s anything that includes my favorite artists.

This year’s haul was particularly good, as I brought home a wide range of books that should keep me busy for at least a few months.

The grand total: $57

My favorite finds for this year include:

The Impressionists and Their Legacy – This book has a price of $150 on the inside cover and I it got for $7.50.  It’s packed with brilliant color plates from of my favorite artists, (i.e. Monet, Cezanne, Pissaro, and Degas), as well as historical information about Impressionism.

Van Gogh by M.E. Thalbaut – I paid $4 for this book and I’m still shocked at what I got for the money.  The dust jacket may be torn, but the interior is pristine.  Color plates fill almost every page, along with reproductions of letters and sketches by Van Gogh.  His life is traced from start to finish with amazing insight.

British Grub by Brian Murphy – Hiding amid the far more popular Italian cookbooks, this British gem was just waiting for me to find it.  Recipes for traditional pub sandwiches, soups, and stews make this little book a huge find! And it was only 25¢!

Dusk by James Salter – I have a previous work by Salter, (Last Night), and always loved his writing, but finding his books in my area can be difficult.  I was delighted to find him hiding in one of the boxes beneath the tables.

Selected Tales of Guy de Maupassant – I already have a complete collection of Maupassant’s works, but this book was so beautiful with gold leafing and illustrations I had to have it!  At only $1, it was easy to justify buying a double.

The Britons Ed. by M.I. Ebbutt – This book was sitting on an end cap in a section where it didn’t belong and I’m so glad I noticed it. Rather than a dry history book, it’s a volume that covers early British history via traditional myths and lore.  I can’t wait to read it.

By the end of the morning, my arms burn from carrying my load of books, but its totally worth the work.  I go home and peel off all the stickers and clean all the covers, (these books sit in a warehouse all year and can get pretty dirty!), and then spend the next week trying to figure out how to fit them on my bookshelves.  For a book lover, this is a day well-spent!

The best part of the whole experience is knowing every dollar spent at the VNSA Book Sale goes to local charities.  This year, they raised $378,000!  The event is already set for next year and you can bet I’ll be there.

– – –

c.b. 2012