Recently I popped along to one of the occasional book sales hosted by Lifeline in Sydney. These events are major fundraisers, offering books which are no longer needed or wanted by their current owners for sale with the proceeds going to charity.

Having attended a couple of these events before, I knew what to expect. Rows upon rows of books sorted in categories and held in sturdy cardboard boxes. A multitude of volunteers zip about, tidying up boxes that have been picked through and refilling gaps from a large stash held out of sight. These well organised events hold a treasure trove of books across all topics and genres, a delight for anyone seeking something of general interest and those trying to track down an elusive book that is tricky to trace through bookshops and online channels.

There is something about being in a group of people, strangers yet united through the common interest of books. Courtesy is evident in the absence of snatching and grabbing of books, a polite patience as one waits to scrabble through the box adjacent which someone is still lingering over. There are book titles both recent and remote in time, old treasures that have been kept for decades until finally they were no longer needed or required, and are available for their next custodian to collect for a very minimal fee.

As I am still sorting and culling my current collection of books, I entered with low expectations and didn’t even have a bag with me, such was my mindset that I didn’t really need any more books. There were still shelves of books at home that needed to be picked over and bags of books that could be sent back into the world for a more appreciative mind to gather and enjoy. But inevitably I found one book, then another, as a small stack formed in my arms. The books at events such as these, and in charity shops too from my explorations, tend to include lots of large, beautifully illustrated books that are hard to find anywhere else. If found online, the postage costs would be greater than the purchase price. But treasures they are, documenting a different time and place and worthy of collecting and enjoying even if it is only for a brief period of time.

Eventually I stumbled out into the daylight, found a spot in the winter sunshine and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of the Knox Grammar School at Wahroonga as I sipped a coffee and flicked through my books. There is something satisfying about finding that book which you didn’t even know you needed in your life.

Are you able to resist a book sale?

[Photo: sample of some of the classics on sale, including one of my long ago favourites, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson]