Saturday, October 13, 2012

An unexpected book sale

It’s fall break, which means that I get exactly one day off from classes (in contrast to my husband, who gets the entire week off, and of whom I’m very jealous).  But because I had a paper due last week and took (passed!) my one midterm, I have a bit more time to breathe this weekend.  After the midterm and some organizational stuff at the music library yesterday (IE finding and bringing home several books to start on my next few papers), I took a Sabbath, which I’ve needed for a while and was absolutely wonderful.  I folded a bunch of laundry, watched some television, finished another book, and took a trip to the local thrift store where I found a new mug to replace my broken school mug, a lovely grey shirt that I wished I could have worn today but couldn't because it hasn’t been washed yet, and a $1 copy of Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women (which I’ve had on my TBR list for ages now – score!)  Dinner and a movie with my husband completed a very relaxing afternoon and evening.  Today we even took a trip to the farmer’s market, where we got to see a live Iron Chef-style competition!  So we definitely have more time to do things other than schoolwork this weekend, and I’m loving it.

I’ve realized that I feel happier if I carry a free-reading book with me to school each day.  Yes, it’s one more thing to carry in my already-heavy bag, but there are a lot of moments during the day when I’m, say, waiting for the bus and could read a few pages.  It’s very comforting to take these few minutes during the school day to do something just for me, and the satisfaction of working my way through fiction even in the midst of so much academic work is tremendous.  I’m happy to report that even with a paper due, a presentation on that research, and the midterm, I’ve finished two books this week!

A fellow music grad student was kind enough to inform me today about a book sale at the public library downtown.  (Please tell me I'm not the only one with a tendency these days to initially spell that as "downton"...)  While it was a much smaller sale than the enormous annual book sale in St. Louis, it actually had a far superior selection of classics and literature, and browsing through it was a really marvelous way to spend an afternoon.  I bought far more books than I'll actually get to this semester!  And this despite being very (okay - somewhat) selective in my purchases.  Two books that I've been meaning to read, Lord of the Flies and A Separate Peace did not make the cut.  I mostly bought Viragos - and there was much rejoicing that their distinctive green (or occasionally black) spines make them easy to pick out when scanning through the literature section.  I didn't buy ALL of the Viragos for sale; I passed up a few whose summaries or writing style seemed not quite to my taste.  When they're only a dollar, I don't mind buying any Viragos that look interesting.  If I don't like any of my new purchases, I can always send them off through paperbackswap and let some other reader enjoy them.  And I had birthday money from my family, and what better way to spend it than supporting my local library?

So here's what I found today:

Five Children and It, E. Nesbit - a lovely Puffin Classics copy of the book that helped inspire Edward Eager's fabulous magical children's series beginning with Half Magic.  I've never read any Nesbit, and that needed to be fixed.
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf - I was going to pass this one up, but I got to chatting with a wonderful old woman who was working at the sale, who after hearing of some of my recent favorite books and authors, said that I simply must try her.
Washington Square, Henry James - Never read him; really want to.  I have a hunch that he's along the same lines as Edith Wharton, whose Age of Innocence was my favorite read from the end of this past summer.

And many Virago Modern Classics:

The Fountain Overflows, Rebecca West
The Rising Tide, M.J. Farrell (Molly Keane)
The Unlit Lamp, Radclyffe Hall
The Constant Nymph, Margaret Kennedy
The Wedding Group, Elizabeth Taylor
Palladian, Elizabeth Taylor
The Soul of Kindness, Elizabeth Taylor
That's How It Was, Maureen Duffy
Precious Bane, Mary Webb

Now I have exactly one book that won't fit on my to-read shelf.  Does anyone else have this problem?  Perhaps it's time to separate the non-fiction, and devote this entire shelf to fiction.  On the other hand, I should really be reading more if I'm going to keep buying new books.  Hmm.

In other happy news, my mother found my old Harry Potter hardcovers and Madeline books in a box in her basement, and is mailing them to me as my birthday present!

So my final question to any readers is, have you read any of the books I've just brought home?  All of these are new books to me, and in most cases, I know next to nothing about their plots, quality, or writing style.  Did you enjoy them?  Are any of these sure to be new favorites?  Which one(s) should I start with, once I finish my current read (To Kill a Mockingbird)?


  1. I've not read any of the books you picked up, but most of those authors are on my list. I have read some Henry James, just not Washington Square. His prose can be kind of dense, so that might be one to save for break. And I have the same policy you do about green Viragos. I find them so rarely that when I do, I'll almost always get them if the price is right and they sound interesting.

    Hope your semester is going well!

    1. Thank you! My semester is going splendidly; I adore graduate school, am learning a lot, and am really immersed in my own research as well. It's a pity you weren't here for this sale - there were so many Viragos available that I started to question my assumption that they're hard to find in America!

      I hope you also are having a lovely autumn.

  2. 'Washington Square' is probably the best place to start with James whose prose, as Teresa says, can be rather dense. I'm sure you'll love 'Five Children and It' although most UK readers probably start with 'The Railway Children'. And, on the subject of taking a book with you to read in odd moments during the day: one winter I read both Volumes of 'War and Peace' during my four daily waits at bus stops. It's definitely a good idea.

    PS, I'm not anonymous, but Alex from but I can'r find any way of getting that to come up. I would normally use the Name/Url option, but it doesn't seem to be available.

    1. OK, so it comes up as anonymous in preview, but not when published. You learn something every day!

    2. Thanks for the advice! And I'm extremely impressed. War and Peace read at bus stops? That's a heroic accomplishment.