Book Love

We Like Big Book Sales and We Cannot Lie

It’s a magical time of the year—the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library’s Annual Fall Big Book Sale. Running from September 20–24 in the Fort Mason Pavilion, one can shop a collection of 500,000 books and media being sold for $3 or less. All proceeds directly support the San Francisco Public Library, so any buyer’s remorse can be swept out the door.

Big Book Sale

In other words, the Big Book Sale is to book lovers as a grape harvest is to Dionysus. For all you newbies wondering what to expect, let’s take a look back at last year’s spectacle.

Being a Big Book Sale beginner, I was initially overwhelmed. Part of this is my personality, yes, but if you were to enter a 50,000-square-foot pavilion teeming with what seems like every edition you’ve ever dreamed of, I’d have to assume you’d feel the same. If you stood still for more than 5 seconds you were likely in someone’s way—there were booksellers pushing shopping carts filled to the brim, gleeful patrons double fisting paperbacks and beer, and hardcore collectors drilling down the science fiction aisle, thumbing through titles at lightning speed.

Friends of SFPL Fall Big Book Sale

Kathy, head of online strategy, already had four psychology books in her hands; Irene, our then-associate manager of visual content, had wandered off to peruse cookbooks; Viniita, our web manager (and bookseller on the side) found a shopping basket that was quickly getting filled with feminist literature. As the newbie of the group, I was still empty-handed, trying and failing to find the perfect pick. It was in the Psychology + Self Help section (the irony is not lost on me) that I found my saving grace—albeit, an existential one—with the book Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History. After that, the finds came easy. Once I stopped looking so hard, interesting titles would pop right out. Before I knew it, my tote was digging into my shoulder, full of books waiting to be devoured.

After almost a hour and half of browsing, we all had reached max armload capacity and decided to call it a day (the knowledge that the sale continued until Sunday didn’t hurt, either). Here’s a look at my team’s books from each of our hauls:

Jenna’s Haul

Big Book Sale: Haul

Georgia O’Keeffe from The Viking Press

While O’Keeffe often gets pigeonholed as “the artist who paints flowers,” she was so much than that—a total badass, to be exact. I can’t wait to read through this book about her life and work.

The Complete Book of Herbs by Lesley Bremness

My grandparents are Portuguese immigrants who worked as farmers, and my father ran his own landscape business, so I’ve always felt a strong connection to plants and gardening. I’ve been meaning to learn more about herbs to incorporate into my other hobby of cooking, so this book was perfect! And I can’t say no to that late ‘80s cover aesthetic.

The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage by Judy Chicago

This is what I like to call a no-brainer: something you spot while shopping that is so obviously perfect that it takes less than a second to decide to purchase. Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party was one of those pieces I learned about in college studying art history, and has stuck with me ever since.

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I majored in psychology in college, and the study of Positive Psychology was one of many that piqued my interest—Csikszentmihalyi just so happens to be a founding father of the practice. I already own his book Flow, and I’m looking forward to reading this one.

Adventuring in the California Desert by Lynne Foster

The desert is one of my favorite places in the entire world to be—after going backcountry camping in Death Valley National Park, I haven’t stopped daydreaming about the vast expanse of desert that awaits. Hoping this book has some gems.

Kathy’s Haul

Big Book Sale: Haul

Visual Thinking by Rudolph Arnheim

I had a lot of trouble choosing between studying art and psychology in college, so when I discovered Arnheim I felt vindicated. I’m not a Jill of all trades, master of none—I’m just a visionary like Rudolph! Phew. It’s groundbreaking theory on perception and where art and the mind intersect, and it also has a great minimal cover. Score.

The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron

It seems like I can’t have a conversation lately with an interesting, self-improvement oriented person without The Artist’s Way coming up. Creativity is trending right now, but despite being published in 1992 this is still an iconic book on the matter, and I want to find out why. Perhaps I’ll write some morning pages about it.

You Can Analyze Handwriting by Robert Holder

Ever a lover of handwritten notes and pop psych, this was too good to pass up. Would you say you cross your T’s with what could be described as a “lance-like” flourish? If so, this might betray your “sarcastic, sharp nature.”

Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

I’ve been wanting to educate myself on intersectional feminism, and this is a must-read that had escaped my reading list. But no longer.

How Things Work IV

I picked this book up for how it looked: a metallic cover with line art featuring an amazing and confusing contraption. Then I opened it and saw a beautiful bright red spot color elucidating some more intense diagrams. It may have started as a superficial attraction, but now I own a book about Hydraulic Power Systems in Aircraft and Medical Applications of the Betatron, and I wouldn’t have otherwise. Good job, book.

Irene’s Haul

Big Book Sale: Haul

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

My husband and I already own and love this book, but I couldn’t resist picking up this copy that’s a fourth edition published in 1962. Amazing to think how many editions there are of Baldwin’s monumental works.

Dissident Song: A Contemporary Asian American Anthology

This anthology features poetry and short stories by Asian American writers—I’m Korean-American, and always appreciate when minority culture voices get amplified through published works like these.

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

I’m always reminded of the shortfalls of American history textbooks and how many important stories get only a fraction of the attention they deserve, especially stories around slavery. So here’s to constant furthering of educating myself!

Japanese Art booklets

We’re headed to Japan in less than a month, and I picked these two booklets up last-minute. One focuses on religious art and the other on scroll art. Very cool.

Viniita’s Haul

Big Book Sale: Haul

Hollywood Babylon II by Kenneth Anger

The second book in the series about famous (and infamous) silent era to 1950s Hollywood scandals, from one of my all time hero filmmakers, Kenneth Anger. I buy every copy of this that I find.

The Poetry of Pablo Neruda by René de Costa

The only book in my haul that I haven’t read yet. I’m excited to explore this in-depth study of the poetry of the Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Pablo Neruda.

Jean-Luc Godard by Richard Roud

This series on cinema directors and movements was published in association with the National Film Theatre (now the British Film Institute) in London, where I used to work, and I’ve been gradually collecting the whole series.

Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture and Space by Peter Blake

As well as being obsessed with cinema, I’m a big architecture nerd. One of my favorite buildings is the Ennis House in Los Angeles, which starred in Blade Runner, The House on Haunted Hill, and also had a small part in my favorite TV show, Twin Peaks.

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If you’re in San Francisco, we urge you to go, go, go to the Big Book Sale! And remember—everything will be only a dollar on Sunday, September 24th. You can RSVP on Facebook here, too.

Jenna Homen

Jenna Homen

Content and Community Manager at Chronicle Books. When she's logged off, she can be found painting, cooking, camping, or petting her dog Harley. You can follow her on Twitter at @jn_na.
Jenna Homen


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