They say you can tell a lot about a person from the contents of their sock drawer. To some extent, I suppose that’s true. However, for getting a glimpse into another person’s life, I think one should always look on the bookshelf.
I went yard saling (let’s just pretend that’s a word) yesterday (which is part of the reason I didn’t post). It’s always a fun time. You should try it. The goal is to hit up as many yard/garage sales as possible within your time frame. I honestly can’t tell you how many I got to. Yard sales are funny things; you walk around carrying another person’s stuff, and they stand there waiting for you to cart off the recently removed contents of their home. Whenever someone invites you to essentially root through their private things like that, you’re bound to get a glimpse of what used to be important to them, what they collected, and what their life is like.
At least, the parts of their life that they don’t care about anymore.
I, of course, always head directly to the books at a yard sale. That’s just the kind of person I am, and it shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. At one house there were lots of books, at least proportional to the amount of stuff total for sale, so I could tell that particular family had book people. There were tons of different books: novels, biographies, kid’s books. I would guess that they were very well-rounded in the literature department. I approved.
Another place also had a good selection, only this time most of the tomes for sale had to do with Christianity. These, clearly, were deeply faithful people. I respected them in that regard. So they, at least at one point in their lives, had been affected with a curiosity to learn more about the Bible and about God.
One house (actually, it might have been the same one) had lots and lots of magazines lying out for free. You could just take them. Among those were maybe twenty copies of National Geographic from the late seventies and early eighties. That was a really cool find for me. I picked some up and I’m going to love finding out how the magazine was thirty years ago. Not that I follow the magazine now, but still. It’s pretty cool. So I figured that this household had had someone with a hankering for learning about the world, at least for a while. Then, who knows? Maybe they got tired of it. Maybe there were more copies that had been grabbed before I saw them.
The yard sales were profitable in more ways than one for me. Sure, I got some awesome deals. But I also learned just how much you can learn just from viewing what another person has (or once had) on their shelves. I wonder what my personal shelf would say about me. That I’m a big reader, sure. I own more books than I know what to do with. But other than that? I own way more fiction than nonfiction, a lot of it YA. So does that mean I’m immature? Or that I’m just young (which I am)? Would the high amount of fantasy and science fiction say that I’m not very down to earth? Is all of this true of me?
Alas, I cannot make a good prediction, as I’m not another person. But it’s fun to think about it.
Another thing about yard sale books: they have a separate story. They’ve been read before. Someone else once had them on their shelf, someone else may have loved it, treasured it. Did they take it with them somewhere special? Or did they buy it and simply forget about it, leaving it to sit in a room somewhere until the day the yard sale came around? There might be whole stories I don’t even know about but I’m somehow connected to, just by owning a book. It’s kind of strange, I suppose, to think that books have two kinds of stories in them.
In the end, though, the only one that matters is the one that’s written down, the one printed on the pages. So no matter where the book came from or what it means about the owner, if you see a good book at a yard sale, go for it. After all, they’re only a few dollars, and you usually can’t get a better deal.