Oh book fair, how do I love thee

By Janelle

Here in Canberra, the Lifeline charity runs a successful second-hand book fair three times a year, as a major source of their fundraising.  All year long, people drop off their pre-loved books, magazines, games, cd’s, and dvd’s to the charity.  A team of dedicated volunteers sort the books into genres, and handwrite the sale price for the next fair inside the cover (usually between $4-$6).  Around 250,000 items are up for sale every year. The next book fair is on its way and I’m already daydreaming about it!

My personal book collection experienced a noticeable expansion once I discovered the book fair.  All of a sudden, $50 could buy 8 or more books, instead of just 2.  I could afford to be more adventurous than usual.  My book fair loot has included some absolute treasures and new authors to follow, which at times has led to me buying other books by the same author brand-new.  If one of these finds turned out not to be my cup of tea, no matter.  Just donate it back to be re-sold at the next fair.  It’s all for a good cause.  And so the cycle continues.

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Part of a book fair haul

My countdown to the next book fair begins weeks in advance, until I’m counting down the number of sleeps in anticipation of attending my favourite bookish event again.  On book fair weekend, thousands of people ranging from hardcore book fair fanatics through to curious book fair newbies, congregate to the local showgrounds where a massive exhibition hall is fitted out with rows of trestle tables as far as the eye can see, displaying the never-ending supply of books.  Signs sprout up from amongst the crowd, signalling zones like “Fiction”, “Cooking” and “Australiana”.  I enter the hall, trailing my mini luggage case behind me (I’ve learnt from previous experience that my bare hands, or even a carry bag, is completely insufficient), ready to scan book spines until my eyes fall out of my head.  I come prepared, with a bottle of water, snacks, and my books-to-buy wishlist ready to go on my phone.

It’s not only the bliss of being surrounded by thousands of books for my browsing pleasure that makes this event one of my favourite things in the world.  It’s not only the fact that I have a rare opportunity to be free of my children for a couple of hours to wander amongst books in a dreamy daze.  It’s not only the possibility of finding something from my wishlist for an absolute bargain.  Although when all of these things are combined, I am in my own personal nirvana state.  One of the things I love most about the book fair is the people, and getting amongst the local community of readers.

Every book fair without fail, I will have at least one happy encounter with a fellow reader that will just make my day.  Sometimes, the person on the other side of the trestle table will notice the book that I’m perusing and will throw in a helpful endorsement, or vice versa, and we’ll chat for a while over the books in our hands and similar reads that we’ve loved.  Or occasionally I might get a thumbs up or a congratulatory comment if I happen to snag something particularly awesome, in which case I will always gasp out loud, so everyone in my immediate vicinity naturally turns towards me and inspects whatever it is I’ve picked up off the table.

Mel, the other half of Little Blog of Books, is my regular book fair companion, and generally we will swap the names of a few titles we are each seeking before we hit the tables.  Two pairs of eyes are better than one.  We tend to stick together as we make our way around the hall, one of each side of the trestle table, moving in parallel unison, so we can continue to chat as we inspect the goodies on offer.

At the last book fair, I spied The Magicians by Lev Grossman, having just recently finished it (and loved it).  I gasped so loud as my hand shot out like a lizard’s tongue to grab it, the three or four people around us all stopped and looked at me, and after I began babbling away to my sister about how great it was, the woman across the table leaned in and said “Really? Well if you don’t take it, I’ll have it instead!”

Once, I happened to spot something that was on my sister’s wishlist – a brand new complete-to-date set of the Song of Ice and Fire series.  We practically got a standing ovation from everyone within a 5-metre radius.

The book fair is also where a nerdy couple convinced my husband to try out a new fantasy series he’d never heard of, placing the books in his hands carefully like they were passing on some kind of divine gift.  It’s where I’m going to slowly build up a Goosebumps and Babysitter’s Club collection for my kids, in my effort to relive my 90’s childhood through them.  It’s where I’m open to new reading possibilities, taking chances on authors I haven’t read and books I’ve never heard of.

Heaven is an exhibition hall filled with cheap second-hand books and the people who love them.

Will we be seeing you at the book fair?

Joining in with Maxabella Loves and friends for The Weekend Rewind

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