"It'll be simpler if you left the books in the bags," the clerk said, as she began working her way through my three bags of books.
I was at a popular bookstore for new and used books. I'd found out that between 11 AM and 5 PM, the store bought books that people wanted to sell. Today, I had lugged 50 books to sell.
I had some great titles in my bags. "Three Cups of Tea," by Greg Mortenson. I didn't want it anymore, especially after I heard the guy was a fraud. But the bookstore didn't want it either.
I also had an impressive-sounding business intelligence book. In Amazon parlance, the book was "like new." My husband had used it once in a while. Sometimes he had used it as a coaster for a fine cup of masala chai. On and off it had come in handy as a door stopper. In August, the book served a prop for the office segment of his 60th birthday bash. So while the book had been used, it looked like new. But the bookstore didn't want it.
Then there was a French-English book too: Je Veux Ma Banane (I Want My Banana). It was a children's book, not erotica. But the pages were stuck to one another. Laundry detergent had leaked into them as it languished by a Tide container in the garage. I hoped the bookstore would look past it since it had the clean TV-commercial scent of Downy fabric softener.
"Okay, we're done," the bookstore clerk said after she plowed through the lot of them. She smiled brightly. "6 dollars if you want cash. And 9 dollars for an exchange."
"Just three books?" I asked, stupefied. I looked at the ones she had deemed worth her while. She wanted The Sudoku Book. I called it the mother-in-law book. In America, visiting mothers and mothers-in-law passed their time doing Sudoku puzzles. Supposedly, the idea of sex dominated all life: The woman decided to buy Mary Roach's Bonk simply because it detailed the science behind sex. Then she'd hung on to a Dr. Seuss hardcover, an alphabet book. At that fragile moment, I could think of a nice word for "F" but Dr. Seuss would have disapproved.
I looked squarely at the woman. "Okay. But what about the rest, some 47 of them?"
"I'm afraid they won't work for us," she said in a sheepish voice. "But you can donate them to the library, you know. It's just a minute away."
I opted for an exchange. Then I drove to the library next door and rumbled back home. They always said there was no money in books. I wished to refine the notion. There was indeed no money—in writing books or in selling them.