Well, the week-long setup and sale of a mountain of books has come to an end. I enjoyed all of it except for the fact that not every single book found a new home. But a goodly number of them did, and it was a joy to watch people go through the tables, looking for all sorts of things.  Some folks were looking to replace a favorite book that had been loaned or lost or damaged. Others were looking for gifts for friends and family. Some were looking for specific titles and authors, while still others were simply hoping to be delighted at finding something interesting.  It was fun to watch college students gravitate toward the classics and children ferreting a good storybook out of the somewhat jumbled piles.

At times, even when there were quite a few people browsing the tables, the room would get very quiet. There was an intensity in the looking. The books were arranged, somewhat, but still it was necessary to focus in order to take in what was before one's eyes. Not to mention that people were reading - reading the book jackets or back covers, reading the first chapter. The quiet was the familiar quiet of a library filled with people who are immersed in books. I loved it.

Most of us have some standards or codes or at least preferences about what we read. While a few folks I know will read just about anything, others of us are more particular.  ("I don't do India," says Judy, for instance. I myself stay away from books with "kill" or "die" in the title, and, actually, would read English period novels almost exclusively if I didn't think anyone was watching.  Fortunately I usually respond positively to urging from friends to try something else.)

The mysteries and thrillers (which we pulled out and gave their own section in the sale) were the most popular section, I think. I like a good mystery, although I'm not much into the CIA thrillers and such; my taste leans more toward Brother Cadfael and Lord Peter Wimsey than Jason Bourne. I scored three of the six Clare Fergusson, Episcopal priest and sleuth, novels by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  (Unfortunately, they were not the first three, so they'll sit in the pile until I procure the others.) A whole lot of Clive Cusslers and David Baldaccis and James Pattersons made their way into other people's tote bags.

Most everyone says that they love mysteries because they can live in another world for a while. People like puzzles and like trying to solve them.  I guess that's true, although in my experience most of life is something of a puzzle, even without spies and forgeries and heists. I, too, like to live in another world for a while, and so I prefer to read in big chunks rather than a few pages or a chapter a night. That parceled-out kind of reading keeps the story at arms' length. I want to dive right in.

And so I spent the day today diving right in, finishing off a novel - People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (a mystery about books!) - this afternoon. Tomorrow it's back to work. Much needs my attention in the next few weeks; the book sale was a lot of work but it was also almost like a vacation. I was living out an alter-ego. (In my fantasy life, I'd be the owner of a cute little bookshop that somehow wasn't about to go bankrupt like all the other cute little bookshops out there.)

Meanwhile, I've got a pile of books I'm looking forward to reading - or more accurately, I've got a bunch of stories in which to live for a while, something like an alternative universe of stories to hear and puzzles to ponder if not solve.  I'm looking forward to carving out more afternoons like this one.