Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Real Book Fair

Last week as I was driving home from work one day, my assistant manager sent me a text message about something he had just seen on the news. He was informing me that there would be a huge book sale happening at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds over the weekend. He said it sounded like something I'd be interested in.

Okay, I guess I've been pegged as a guy that likes to read a lot. Whatever. You know, I don't like to be painted with a particular brush. I like to think that I'm more than just the guy that reads all the time because he's bored at work and hates his job. There's a lot more to me than that.

For instance, I like to kick things when I'm inconsolably frustrated. Usually these objects are an immovable kind of thing that could realistically break my toe if I hit it the wrong way. Also, I enjoy chasing after women who are way out of my league. I find them challenging and I enjoy the inevitable heartbreak that comes when I get shut down.

So I like to read. Big deal. A lot of people like to read. I've found that literacy is a very handy skill to have in today's world. So yeah, I was interested in a ginormous book sale at the fairgrounds over the weekend. Books are great. And they're even better when they're cheap.

What it was, was this big annual sale put on by the Wake County Public Library. It went on from Thursday until Sunday with prices decreasing each day. I got there Saturday morning, when prices were $2 for hardcovers and $1 for paperbacks. This was a pretty amazing thing to see.

Saturday morning saw a pretty large crowd at the book fair. I had never driven to the fairgrounds before so when I got there, I was a little confused as to where I should go and where I should park. Turns out I parked about as far away from the exposition building as I could. This was not on purpose. And I would find out later that it was a pretty substantial mistake on my part.

I walked about a mile to the expo center and immediately saw the long line of people waiting to get in. It was like that time I tried to get in to try out for American Idol. I went by myself, so I was surrounded by strangers. Waiting in line to buy cheap books with people you don't know can be an experience in itself.

There was this high school girl behind me who had an E.T. watch. I thought that was interesting since I've been living under the impression that kids that young refuse to watch movies made before 1998. Directly in front of me was a small family consisting of a married couple, the wife's parents, and their very small child, who was carted around in a wagon. The wagon would have been a great idea for carrying around the books that they would be buying if the kid wasn't occupying all the usable space.

At one point, the small child in the wagon was complaining about the sun being in his eyes. This led to them covering him with a blanket. Then he complained it was too hot for the blanket. So they took the blanket off and he got out of the wagon. Then he complained that he wanted to get back in the wagon but didn't want the blanket there. His mom told him it would be dirty under the blanket. The kid said, "I like it dirty." It was all I could do not to shout, "That's what she said!" But I remembered where I was and who I was with. I was not with friends. I was not with my assistant manager from work who says that all the time, even when it makes no sense. No, had I said it, it would have been highly inappropriate. This is what separates me from Michael Scott. Common sense.

The fun in line doesn't end with an inappropriate joke that was never used. Somewhere in the distance we began hearing some loud shouting from what I can only describe as a drunken, redneck woman. When I searched the crowd and found the source of the shouting, I saw a woman desperately clinging to a stop sign in the parking lot. She was asking people in line if they needed reading glasses. I'm not sure what her concern was about people's vision. I'm not sure why it would have been any of her business. Maybe when she's sober she's an optometrist. I wouldn't let her do anything with my eyes though. A man in his 70s with a uniform that was labeled "Public Safety" approached the woman and asked her to leave. I'm not sure how intimidating he actually was to her. But she did stop yelling and walked away.

Finally, after waiting for what felt like hours, I got to the front of the line. Space Mountain was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Oh... wait... that's a different story. This is the book story. Got to keep that straight.

Inside the expo hall was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. That's an exaggeration. But it was pretty cool to see so many books in one place. Table after table lined with books on every subject imaginable. It's like all the libraries in the area just decided they didn't want their books anymore. So they shipped them to the fair and let the public at them. It was bigger than I thought it would be and I knew I was in trouble. See, I didn't bring a box or a bag of any kind. All I had were these two hands. Don't get me wrong, the hands are good enough most of the time. But I was ill-prepared for the task set before me.

I checked my wallet to see how much I could afford to spend on all these used books. I gave myself a $30 limit. That meant, at the very least, I would walk away with 15 hardcover books. I like hardcover. They just look better on the bookshelf. That's right, I'm a book snob.

So I browsed. A lot. I haven't picked up a Stephen King book since I finished The Stand last summer, but I still want to read all of his work before I die. I know I have a long way to go. Next on that particular list is The Dead Zone, so I sought that book out. I also bought a bunch of other King novels that I knew I would have to get eventually anyway. At one and two bucks a piece, why wouldn't I get them at the fair?

I didn't just hit the horror section, though. I went to general fiction and literature and even the young adult sections. I didn't find anything I wanted in young adult, which surprised me. It could have just been that by that point I was fatigued by all the books I was already carrying around in my exhausted arms.

When all was said and done I walked away with 14 books for a grand total of $23. Not too shabby. I found an empty box and made the mile long trek back to my car. By the time I got there I wanted to die. I haven't carried books like that over a great distance since college. And even then it wasn't nearly that many all at once. But it was worth it.

At this point, the story is over, but if you'd like to continue reading this post, feel free. Because here's a list of all the books I bought...

The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
Timeline - Michael Crichton
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Red Dragon - Thomas Harris
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
The Dead Zone - Stephen King
Fire-Starter - Stephen King
Misery - Stephen King
Needful Things - Stephen King
Pet Sematary - Stephen King
The Tommyknockers - Stephen King
Under the Dome - Stephen King
Left Behind - Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins
At First Sight - Nicholas Sparks

I want to read more classics, hence the classics that I got. I'll get around to those other King books eventually. Left Behind I got just so I could have the entire set. A couple years before Dad passed away I let him borrow my copy of that first book in the series and never got it back. Even after he died and we were cleaning out his house I couldn't find it. Not sure what happened to it. Anyway, if I complain about not having anything to read at any point in time, would someone please remind me of all these books that I now have sitting in a box on my coffee table? Thanks.


  1. Timeline is great, but the movie is a disappointment. The Dead Zone is really good, as is Under the Dome (although it doesn't feel quite as epic as The Stand). Misery was the first Stephen King book I read, when I was 13, so it holds a special place in my heart. Good choices.

  2. I LOVE Timeline (and it isn't even ALL because of Gerard Butler). If you watch the movie FIRST, it's not such a disappointment, but yeah, the book is WAY better.
    I have lots of classics, and I've read even more if you need recommendations.
    Good haul. I didn't find any of the books that I was looking for, but I found some good ones by some Christian authors I'd been meaning to check out, and the first one I read was great.
    Today, Leo and I turned in some books for store credit at Ed McKay, and we got a couple of the Patrick Bowers series (seriously, check them OUT!!!), and The Hunger Games.
    I feel a little regret that I didn't go back to the sale after the prices went down to $5/box.