Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Swap

Casey and I ran out of books to read this week. Every night before bed, Casey and I read nice fat books like Mysterious Benedict Society or Harry Potter . I try to pick books that have long story lines and characters that become the reader's friend by the end -- mainly because if I'm having to read, too, I need something more riveting than Hank the Cowdog. That's a selfish approach to nighttime reading, I know, but I think it explains why my second grader reads on a sixth grade level and throws around words like "improbable". And don't start feeling like poor little Mace is being forced to suffer through 300 page novels just yet -- we'll wait until he's four to start The Odyssey.

Anyway, Casey and I have also read the Series of Unfortunate Events series (all 13 or 14 books), which I despised -- I really think that if an entire series of books for young readers is based on the mystery surrounding parents who were allegedly killed in a fire and a rumor that at least one of the parents actually survived the fire, then the kids should find at least that one parent by the end of the series. I don't need Pollyanna, but the end of that series was, well, unfortunate. It's extremely difficult to find books that are appropriate for Casey's reading level, but not inappropriate for his age.

But I digress.

We ran out of interesting nighttime books to read this week and I promised Casey that today we would buy more books. Well, the Dave Ramsey envelope system does not have an envelope for books, which meant that I was going to have to get a little creative if I was going to buy books today. And yes, the library is always a good option for people who do not have such large outstanding fines that their privileges are currently suspended.

At first, I thought we might check the new big Goodwill store down the road from us. And then I remembered that I could probably trade in some of our old books for credit toward new ones at a used bookstore. I located one not too far from us and commenced gathering up all the books I was willing to relinquish, which is not as straightforward as it sounds. I've spent the last 25 years of my life hoarding books. One year (when I was still single and carefree), I decided to write down the title of each book I read that year because I knew I read a lot, I just wanted to know how much. I stopped writing titles down when I reached 100 books for the year by June. I have a book problem the size of which only a Kindle could solve. Because of my aging brain, I have even bought a book or two in the last year that I had already read, but didn't realize it until I got two or three pages into the story. In fact, book hoarding is one of the things Flamingo Joe loves least about me. When I told him I was heading to the book swap, he asked if I wanted him to bring up the 10 (or 20) Rubbermaid bins full of my books from downstairs. "Heavens no! Those are ones I want to keep!" I said. I only intended to tackle the upstairs bookshelves and closet where the books were double-stacked to maximize storage space.

After I'd gone through the stacks and shelves, my "swap" pile looked like this:

That's nine very full bags of books, separated by genre. This only skims a layer off the surface of the book collection in our house -- I didn't want to take more than that because I was going to have to rely on child labor (Casey) to help me get them into the store unless I could convince Dez to come with us (which I did).

When we got to the book swap, I went in first and asked if there were any particular books the store was not currently accepting. I didn't want to haul 9 bags of books into the store, only to have to haul 8 away in shame. The clerk started listing criteria, but several items on her list concerned the age of the books and whether they had or had not come out in paperback. I had separated my books by genre, thinking that the book swap might not want 150 Christian romance fiction paperbacks (my mom kept passing them down to me and I never passed them on to anyone else -- most of them were so bad I didn't want anyone else to know I had actually read them). I had not considered that the age of the book might matter. The clerk told me to just bring all the books in and she would go through them and give me store credit for the ones she wanted to keep and I could take the rest back. She encouraged us to look around while she went through the books.

Casey and I went to the juvenile fiction room and started browsing. It was difficult, but we found a few things. We were there for at least half an hour trying to find appropriate books for him. I don't really want my second grader reading about sixth and seventh graders experiencing their first kiss. You would be surprised just how many books there are in the juvenile fiction room where first kisses are indeed the pivotal plot element.

Eventually, the clerk told us that we had a store credit of $21. We could use the store credit to apply towards the purchase of books (up to 50% of the price, the other half we had to pay for). So we bought four or five books and only spent about $10.

You may be thinking that $21 is not a lot of money for all the books in those bags and you'd be right. The clerk only kept about 1/4 of the books we took in, so I took the walk of shame back to the car with six bags. I had to decide what I was going to do with the rejected books. I knew I couldn't go home with them or Flamingo Joe would make me sleep under the house in a Rubbermaid bin with them. So I stopped at Goodwill and dropped them off before heading home.

When I got home, I picked up the only book I had bought for myself at the book swap.

Turns out I had already read it.

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