Sunday, May 02, 2010

Books, Books, & More Books

by Wilfred Bereswill

Talk about being overwhelmed.  This weekend was the Greater St. Louis Book Fair.  It's held annually to benefit a number of charities in the area.  This year it was held in the massive parking garage of one of the area's biggest shopping malls.  I have never seen so many books in one place.  Admission was charged on Friday and an auction was held.  Apparently the highlight was a rare signed copy of Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms.

I was unable to attend Friday, but I swung by on both Saturday and Sunday.  I was looking to fill in some holes in my collections, which meant that I was searching tables and tables and tables of hardbacks and paperbacks.

What it made me realize, is that an author is fighting incredible odds to stand out amid the sea of titles out there.  If I was having trouble finding Tom Clancy's The Bear And The Dragon, how on earth is a beginning novelist supposed to stand out in that same paper ocean?

Anyway, back to the Fair.  After hours of browsing I managed to find a stash of titles that more than doubled my massively huge to be read pile which still includes a number of titles that I got from last year's Bouchercon.

What piqued my fancy?  Well, I managed to fill in my Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, John Sanford and Patricia Cornwell quite nicely.  In addition, I managed to find some novels from authors I know personally, like John Gilstrap from The Kill Zone blog, Jan Burke (autographed), Tess Gerritsen and Barb D'Amato.  I also picked up some fine St. Louis authors, like Ridley Pearson, Bobbi Smith, Jo Heistand, Eileen Dreyer and even picked up an autographed copy of SWF Seeks Same by John Lutz which became the movie Singe White Female.  I found a 1st edition of Stephen King's Bag Of Bones.  I also picked up some romance books for my lovely wife and some light mysteries for my youngest daughter.

And the amazing thing is... I spent less than $20.  Yep.  Today was half price day.  Paperbacks were a whopping $.50 and most hardbacks were $1.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I picked up a 30 year old illustrated book called Play Better Golf by Jack Nicklaus.  Then I picked up a 1955 copy of Golf With The Masters.  Lastly, I found a 1946 copy of How To Play Golf by Sam Snead.  All three of these beauties will be proudly displayed in my den.

I lugged all my treasures to my car and began thinking about the future of publishing.  As I said, all the proceeds went to worthwhile charities in the St. Louis area, but when publishing goes mostly digital...  You noticed I said when, not if...  What will become of book fairs?

So, if you happened to find yourself in a monster book fair, what would you search for?


Laurissa said...

Funny you should mention this. Today I'm going to the Mystery Lovers Festival in Oakmont, PA. Honestly, I won't know where to begin looking once I'm there. So many fabulous authors will be there!

Jennie Bentley said...

Oooh, sounds like fun! And the price was certainly right.

I'd be looking for classic mysteries, I think. Sayers, Marsh, Christie, Quentin Patrick... That and to fill in holes in my collection of, say, JD Robb, who cranks'em out so fast I can't keep up. I also tend to pick up books about musicals, movie and Broadway, when I come across them. And biographies of people like Irving Berlin and Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Ethel Merman. It's a varied collection...

Wilfred Bereswill said...


I've met a number of the authors before. Elaine Viets is an ex-St. Louisan Who wrote for the newpaper here before writing mysteries.

I probably know Heather Webber best out of the bunch. She's good frieds with another friend of mine, Laura Bradford.

Tell Karen E. Olson we're all disappointed that the "First Offenders" stopped blogging.

The event sounds like fun. Enjoy.

Wilfred Bereswill said...


I picked up a few JD Robb books. My wife said she wanted some Nora Roberts.

There were a lot of classic mysteries in the racks. I spent several hours and only made it through the mystery/Suspense/Thriller isles and Romance.

Gina said...

So many books, so little time . . .
I tend to let the magic of the universe lead me to whatever might be interesting at book fairs. It's much too frustrating to go in looking for one or two particular things that may or may not be available, and I fear missing all the other great books that are there if I put all my energy into a focused quest.
Mysteries, horror, all kinds of fiction. I also like the odd. One of my favorites is an old (1937) edition of Collier's World Atlas and Gazetteer. It's full of entries like, "Hawaii. The territory of Hawaii, formerly called the Sandwich Islands . . ." Even Magnum wouldn't recognize the place! It's terribly politically incorrect, but even then was willing to admit, under Races of Mankind, "There is no specific difference between the various branches of the human family . . . which implies anything in contradiction to the assumption of a common origin." The list of Presidents of the United States ends with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Gina said...

BTW, if anyone is in the Pittsburgh area today, it is worthwhile to get to the Festival of Mystery Dozens of authors to schmooze with, hundreds of books to buy. What more could you want?
Details are available at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop website;

Karen in Ohio said...

If you want book fairs, come to Cincinnati. The Friends of the Public Library have been having amazing book fairs here for the last 25 years or so. They have gotten so popular that there are now six or more a year, spread around the county.

Citizens donate books, tapes, CDs and DVDs throughout the year, and volunteers cull and organize them, pricing and setting them up on tables. It's pretty amazing, with several hundred thousand books at each event. The last time I went, to the one they hold in the local middle school each summer, I bought 60 books over the course of two days, although I had to miss the last day, when everything is half price.

Cincinnati, by the way, is routinely named in the top five most literary cities in the US. We also have a ton of bookstores, as well as one of the finest library systems in the country. We are very fortunate here.

Patg said...

When books go all digital, paper books will be located in antique fairs. A episode of Star Trek had someone lovingly fondling a paper book and saying he will always love a paper version, to which Kirk replies that he prefers his tapes.
Fear not, unless all the trees are gone. Living in Oregon, I find that impossible to believe.
I search for first edition paperback Agatha Christies. Or very, very old children's books of familiar stories. Doubtful I'd find any Carolyn Keene, but you never know.

M Pax said...

Oh, that sounds fun.

I would look for books on any of my research topics. Then look to fill in my sci-fi collection. :)