Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The region's best-buried book bargain

I haunt used book stores and the Friends of the Library's annual book sale in Charlotte, which comes up again April 12-20. But until a pal tipped me off, I never knew I'd find a bonanza in Salisbury. Like a lot of fabled treasures, it's hidden.

When I walked into the Literary Bookpost on Main Street last week, no sign directed me to the discount shelves in the basement. I'd been told to go straight downstairs and turn to the left, where I'd find hundreds of works of fiction -- apparently, all of them new or remaindered -- at 75% off the purchase price. (The nonfiction shelves to the right offered the same discount but fewer choices.)

Bingo! Metaphysical Latin American writers mingled with American mystery writers. Meditations by W.H. Auden shared space with scary stuff by Stephen King. Obscure works by Samuel Beckett stood within shouting distance of psychological thrillers by Barbara Vine and the sardonically nostalgic humor of Jean Shepherd. I unearthed a Charleston-based novel I'd long heard about but never seen, let alone read: "The Treasure of Peyre Gaillard," a 1906 novel by John Bennett about an adventurer digging for a rumored trove of fabulous value. (Very apt, in this case.)

The books all were, or looked, virtually untouched. Many were out of print or no longer available in these editions. I recognized dozens of titles I already owned, a good omen in any bookstore.

I had agreed in advance to limit myself to one armful, and I kept to that self-made bargain. I'm not going to be more specific, as my wife sometimes reads this blog. (Hi, honey!) I have long arms, they were indeed full, and every book within my clutch cost less than $5. I can't imagine any reader would go away empty-handed, so here's info about the store: (After you visit, walk farther up Main Street and get a latte at Tastebuds Coffee and Tea.)

While I was paying for my books, cackling inwardly at the amazing bargains, the woman behind the cash register casually remarked, "I see I'll have to restock down there." Restock? MORE books will be going onto the 75 percent off rack? Hmmm...Downtown Salisbury is only about 45 minutes from downtown Charlotte, when I avoid rush hour. If I take three months to read the stash I've already acquired....