Which inanimate objects did I have the hardest time leaving behind when I moved abroad? My books. I had been working on a collection for years, of which I was pretty proud. When I grow up and am rich and famous, I will build a marvelous library in my home, hidden behind a wall with a secret access panel, filled with rolling ladders and giant fireplaces and a glass domed astronomy tower and…well, I haven’t run this by my husband yet. We’ll see.
Anyway, I miss my books. I managed to bring about 15 books from my collection with me here, ones that I really couldn’t stand to be without. And although I have a tablet, and can read books electronically, there is still something so wonderfully alluring about a hard copy. It’s the smell, maybe, or the physical interaction, the anticipation of the next page, flirting with reading ahead or flipping back to a favorite quote. These experiences are lost with an e-reader. However, since most bookstores here only stock French versions, I was resigned to using iBooks to get my fix.
Then I discovered “The Library in English.” Residing in the Emmanuel Church near Lake Geneva since the 1930’s, this quaint little library had almost everything I was looking for; the exception was free membership. I’m so used to free library memberships in America; indeed, I’ve had a library card since I was about seven years old. Of course, this being Geneva, it wasn’t a very cheap membership fee either. I again surrendered myself to the glow of the e-books. And then I heard of their book sale.
Hooray! This adorable little library has a biannual used book sale. Members and townsfolk alike donate all their old, unwanted, English tomes to the nice (mostly British) lady volunteers, and these ladies in turn categorize and price and display the books for the public. No membership is necessary to shop at the book sale. They have a wide range of genres: fiction, history, travel, classics, poetry, animals, cooking, science, technology, politics, biography, children’s, art, collectibles, etc. Prices range from 2CHF to 6CHF for most paperbacks, with some bigger, coffee-table type books commanding as much as 20CHF. The money goes back into the library to help with overhead costs. They even set up a small tea shop during the weekend-long sale, where donated baked goods and tea sandwiches bring in more money for the upkeep.
I have been to the sale three times now. I have begun a new collection in my new home, 22 new volumes to add to my precious favorites. Now my only question is this: do I keep these new additions and add them to my waiting assembly when I return to the States, or do I re-donate them at the end of my stay here, thus completing their circle of life? Keep turning the pages to find out.