Book-lovers come out early to get first dibs at Times Colonist Book Sale

Plenty of volumes left for Day 2 of sale, which continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Victoria Curling Club

For Graham Stobbe and his daughters Sage and Acacia, the Times Colonist Book Sale started nine hours before the doors opened Saturday.

The Saanich family camped out in front of the Victoria Curling Club at midnight, securing their spot at the front of the line and ensuring that they’d have first dibs on the hundreds of thousands of books on sale come 9 a.m. The sale continues today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1952 Quadra St.

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With portable hammocks to keep them off the cool concrete, Stobbe, 13-year-old Sage and 10-year-old Acacia were alone in line until 2:30 a.m., when they were joined by Darlene Smith, a fellow book enthusiast who said she has missed only one year since the sale started in 1998. Sage was appropriately dressed in a T-shirt bearing the words “Happy Camper.”

Sage and Acacia were the driving force behind the early arrival, Stobbe said. Both girls read about one book a week, so they’re constantly looking to top up their literary supply.

The book sale has become an annual tradition and since they’re no amateurs, the three have a strategy: Fan out. Stobbe will head to the classics and non-fiction section while Sage and Acacia race upstairs and look for old editions of Nancy Drew and books by Hans Christian Andersen.

“Kids’ books disappear quicker so we always hit that first,” Acacia said. Kids books sell for $1 each while softcovers are a toonie and hardcovers cost $3.

Having just read an abridged version of Les Misérables, Sage is looking for more books by Victor Hugo.

Stobbe said both his daughters were read to from a young age, which solidified their love of reading.

Sage remembers the advice her father gave her when she was learning to read and frustrated with a difficult word. “He said: ‘You can travel anywhere and escape reality and it’s magical,’” Sage recalls. Both girls look back fondly on the days when their parents would read them Curious George and books by Dr. Seuss and Robert Munsch.

“You get to broaden your experiences, you get to see things you otherwise wouldn’t see,” Stobbe said.

Stobbe said instead of scolding his daughters for being on their phones, he has to tell them to put their books away and go to bed.

“I have to get the kids off of books, not off the streets,” he joked. “That’s where they get in trouble, I’ll say: ‘Put the book away and go to sleep.’ “

Beyond encouraging his bibliophile daughters, Stobbe also likes to support the Island education and literacy programs that are funded by the proceeds of the book sale. The sale has raised more than $5 million since 1998.

“I work in corrections, so I work with guys who deal with low literacy all the time,” he said.

Shannon Brockhurst, 21, who was in line at 3:45 a.m., was in the market for travel and language books. She said travel books help her build her bucket list of countries to visit.

Gary Parker, who arrived just before Brockhurst, was hunting for books on military history and a hardcover copy of Group of Seven painter Tom Thomson’s The Silence and the Storm.

Parker’s advice when looking for books: Don’t be too picky.

“Just start shovelling books in your box and pick through it later on,” he said. “If you pass by something, it will be gone by the time you get back.”

Once the sale is over, representatives of schools and non-profit groups may help themselves to the remaining books, for free, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

About the book sale

The annual Times Colonist Book Sale continues on Sunday, May 12, with hundreds of thousands of books on sale at the Victoria Curling Club at 1952 Quadra St.

The sale, which goes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will mark the culmination of a massive effort in which hundreds of volunteers spent almost two weeks sorting the books after they were donated by generous Times Colonist readers at a drive-through drop-off.

Here’s what you need to know:

• The prices are a big part of the attraction: hardcovers $3; softcovers $2; pocket books and children’s books $1.

• Payment is by cash, debit, MasterCard, Visa or American Express, but no cheques.

Bring a little bit of money and a little bit of patience. The sale often starts off with a lineup around the block. Some shoppers treat the queue (it often starts before midnight Friday) as part of the experience. Others prefer to sleep in and let the line disappear. With hundreds of thousands of volumes on offer, it’s not as though there’s a rush to get at the books.

Wear comfy shoes, as you’ll be on a concrete floor. Some people like to bring their own carrier bags, while others prefer to pick up a cardboard box (or two, or three …) at the curling club.

Remember that children’s books are upstairs (but leave your baby strollers downstairs, please).

If you get peckish, the Good Fellows café inside the curling club will be open.

Pay parking is available in the lot that serves the curling club and Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. There is also free parking along Quadra, but be aware that parking on some of the nearby side streets is for residents only. You can also take the No. 6 bus, which goes along Quadra Street.

Once the sale is over, representatives of schools and non-profit groups may help themselves to the remaining books, for free, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

The sale has raised more than $5 million since it started in 1998. As usual, all the money raised will go to education and literacy programs on Vancouver Island.

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