Category Archives: BOOK SALES


As is well known, I need more books in my house like I need the proverbial hole in my head, but nonetheless, I succumbed. After all, I’m doing a good deed by adding to Library funds, aren’t I? My book buying, on this occasion is a public good deed. So stop raising your eyebrows, and rolling your eyes. Yes – I did eat my Kryptonite for breakfast  – I can see you from here.

I had wonderful success on the Oldies But Goldies Table. A banquet of tattered treasures, old and battered, and costing R2 or R5 each. How could I resist? This is what I carted home:

Biggles & the Black Peril – Capt W E Johns  – boys’ adventures (see review below)

A Book of Poetry – W.M. Smythe   – dipped into;all those classic poems I should have read and didn’t; but  I can see this one is going to make its way back to the Library Sale tables.

The Bonfire of the Vanities  –  Tom Wolfe – still brooding heavily in my TBR pile.

Thus far I have only read Biggles and the Black Peril  by Capt W E Johns.  What a nostalgia fest!  I read as many of the Biggles books  as I could get my hands on when I was somewhere between the age of 9 and 12 years old.  I loved them.

Reading a Biggles book some 65 years later I polished off the book speedily.  They tend to be short on pages and even shorter on plot, but I say! What adventure, what thrills – chasing the baddies and/or being chased by the baddies (chief baddy in this epic is called Blackbeard – of course he is; and no, he’s not a pirate he’s a devious scheming Russian Up To No Good on British soil – the cheek of it!).

Flying all over Northern Europe in pursuit of the baddies in a flying boat – have you ever heard of such an aircraft? If you were born 1960 onwards, then probably not.  The page containing the publication date has been torn out of my battered copy, but the references are post-WWII , so I assume  the book was published in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

It’s all good clean fun, and the chaps are strong-jawed and courageous. The heroic Major Bigglesworth dramatically exclaims at intervals:”Hark! I hear an approaching machine!” I promise you, he does. “Hark!” – isn’t this delicious?  You can see him cupping his ear for the drone of the engine, while he turns his noble profile skywards and keenly scans the skies for the enemy aircraft. Wonderful. They don’t make heroes like this any more.

Our modern heroes rely heavily on Armageddon style weaponry and electronic wizardry, not to mention jaw dropping supernatural powers. Not so the brave band of Major  Biggles & Co. No no. Not for them. It was all down to courage, grit, determination, pluck and jolly good dash of luck thrown in. My vote goes to Biggles and not to Batman. You think I’m too old fashioned and hopelessly out of touch? Hard cheese,  dear reader.




Years ago I read Lonesome Dove,  and loved it. Later I read The Desert Rose  and enjoyed both novels set in America’s South West. Over the years I’ve seen Hud, Cadillac Jack, Buffalo Girls, Dead Man’s Walk, at the movies, not realising they started out as books written by McMurtry. Furthermore, he wrote the screen play (together with Diana Ossana) of one of my favourite movies, Brokeback Mountain.

What a prodigious writer the man is: 29 novels, two collections of essays, three memoirs, more than 40 screenplays! He won the Pulitzer Prize for Lonesome Dove, and an Academy Award for Brokeback. All this I discovered, and more, when I read his account of a lifetime spent writing, buying, selling and reading books, in his memoir titled “Books – a memoir”. The chapters are short – sometimes only one page in length, but what a wealth of anecdotes and history of American book collecting, buying and selling they contain.

I loved the stores about eccentric booksellers, often hidden away in tiny dark shops, for instance the little old Jewish bookseller whose shelves extended up to the ceiling and who made his customers view his stock through binoculars! Nowadays things have changed, and often owners of bookstores or libraries who wish to sell their collections or stock, will simply make a video recording of the shelves, which McMurtry and his partner Marcia Carter will scan, and then decided whether to buy the books – or not.

I was intrigued to read about the enormous libraries amassed by the rich (and the super rich), the famous, and the movie moguls. A very few appear to have been genuine lovers of books and reading; the remainder displayed their collections as signs of their wealth and prestige. I was astonished to learn that big collections of books, numbering the thousands, change hands at auction or private sale, holus bolus, in their entirety, and McMurtry relates how he drove to auctions in his car, loading the vehicle to the hilt on the homeward run with his purchases. He says that the loading and unloading and unpacking of book cartons is the physical side of book collecting, and dealing. I’ll bet it is – a carton of books can be damn heavy, as I know!

I did a rough count of the books currently in my cupboards and shelves and came out at around 700. This number is miniscule when compared to the private libraries of the wealthy, some of whom specialise in collecting specific editions – of the classics, say – in their entirety. No wonder their libraries number in the thousands. And of course University and State Libraries also contain (and on occasion sell) complete collections of a particular author’s work. Interestingly, when official Libraries receive a bequest from an estate, sometimes a portion of the bequest will be sold off to the dealers and collectors, because it does not fall within the ambit of their collection.

McMurtry has tales of trawling through second-hand book shops in the States and in the UK, buying huge job lots of books, and occasionally discovering something really valuable  in amongst the dross, that sells of hundreds of dollars, and in one transaction pays for the entire job lot, with a handsome profit remaining. He also lists – depressingly – a long list of bookstores he has dealt with over the years,  many of which  have sold up and closed down. He reflects towards the end of his memoir on the usurping role of computers in libraries, sometimes – oh horror! – replacing the book stock entirely. He ruefully decides you can’t stem the tide, things will, and do, change.

But he loves books. Always has and always will, and he turned his home town Archer City, Texas, into a booktown (being inspired by the English town devoted to books, Hay-on-Wye). He owns and operates a vast bookstore comprised of nearly 400,000 used, rare and collectible books.

Now THAT’S A BOOKSTORE!  I’d love to visit it.





It’s that time of year again: SALE TIME!  I can’t resist a Sale.  Now starts the customary inner tug-of-war: you don’t need any more books – don’t go.

Yes but: there are such bargains.

No: your credit card has smoke gushing out of it after the annual Christmas splurge.

Yes but: I can buy wonderful bargain books in preparation for Christmas 2011 and save money. This would be a good thing, wouldn’t it ?  A responsible and thrifty thing to do. Of course it would.

And so the battle rages, as I surreptitiously mark the day & time of the Loyalty Members Only Pre-Sale Opportunity into my diary. I tell myself that I’ll just go and look;  I won’t actually buy anything, not unless its marked down to R10 and its a book I’ve waited for all my life.

Yeah – right. Who are you kidding?

No, really.  This year I mean it.  I will be strong.  I will resist temptation.  Look how I keep a slab of chocolate in the cupboard and only have one square approximately every six week – see ? If that isn’t willpower, I don’t know what is. I can be strong.  And how about last year – I never even went to the November sale. I ignored it completely.

Yes but : only because you were on crutches after undergoing  major surgery!

I contemplate leaving my credit cards at home and going to the sale. No: I’m stronger than that.  I will take them with me.  What if I have some unforeseen emergency?  I seldom carry cash.  It would be foolish to venture forth, card-less.  It will be fine.  I will not succumb.


This year I did rather well, I thought.  I completely ignored the novels. I know I can access them via the Library, my Book Club and friend’s bookshelves. Travel guides, cookery books, art and decor books were fun to flip through but I resolutely put them back onto the piles. Self-help, religion, politics, biography :NWOV (not wanted on voyage) .

My resolve wavered  when I found a fat paperback that I’d been dying to read and my Book Club had rejected. It was only R40-00; if that wasn’t a bargain what was?  My good resolutions crumbled when I found a solid hardcover BBC book from the TV series Around the World in 80 Gardens – unbelievable price at R80-00. And then there was the oversized format Bizarre Buildings with gorgeous colour photos on every page – I mean, at R75-00 it would have been a crime not to buy it. I bought two books as gifts for friends – I just know they’ll love them.  Plus I did have that helpful R20 discount coupon, thoughtfully mailed to me by the bookstore  prior to the January sale, so all in all, it was an economical outing.  I managed to coax R198 out of my credit card, and gleefully carted my bargain purchases home.

Let me see: five books for under R200-00. Personally I think that was a triumph, don’t you?


Filed under BOOK SALES