Jack Knox: Tomes at Times Colonist Book Sale reveal weird and wonderful tales

Times Colonist Book Drive logo 2018Jane Mertz stumbled across Deer Hunting With Jesus.

Bob Warren found Outhouses of the East (not to be confused with A History of Toilets, which also showed up).

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Deb David was delighted to discover a 1940s translation of Italian Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography, illustrated by Salvador Dali.

Oh, the volunteers never know what titles will turn up as they sort the donations to the annual Times Colonist Book Sale.

It’s an Easter egg hunt. Scattered among the hundreds of thousands of books at this weekend’s sale, sprinkled among the Grishams, Rankins and Rowlings, will be obscure titles that can be pure gold to those mining for literary nuggets.

One reader’s trash is another’s treasure. The Times Colonist’s perennially dyspeptic publisher, Dave Obee, a history buff, freaked everyone out by getting excited about the appearance of Some Reminiscences of Old Victoria, written in 1912 by Edgar Fawcett, who — this is too good to make up — once ran the capital’s water system.

Longtime volunteer Al Haines was thrilled by a trove of Doc Savage pocketbooks from the 1930s. Haines keeps an eye out for out-of-copyright works — in Canada, that means any book whose author has been dead for 50 years or more — to scan as free e-books for Project Gutenberg.

Some of the discoveries are pure head-scratchers. Inserted in one volume was a homemade bookmark fashioned from a one-column 1994 Times Colonist story headlined Man Cut Off Own Genitals With Power Saw.

Over in the section dedicated to the culinary arts, sorters were bemused by The Cannibal Cookbook: Recipes and Remedies for Human Sacrifice (maybe it was dropped off by the same person who donated the New Zealand love story Come On Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All, or by the one who surrendered the novel Eat Brains Love).

Among the food area’s oddities were a book on how to cook on your vehicle’s manifold, one on insect-based cuisine, and another on cooking with cannabis.

“We didn’t know whether to put it under Vegetarian or Herbs and Spices,” said volunteer Marsha Birney.

That’s not what had Birney fired up, though. “We have found things we have been looking for for years,” she said. Others were similarly impressed by the quality and diversity of this year’s donations. A bit of a bump in business biographies and newer biz books in general, the boys sorting that section said. Upstairs in the children’s section, they saw a blip in pre-teen/teen science fiction.

There should, in fact, be something for everyone at the 20th anniversary Times Colonist Book Sale. Here’s what you need to know:

• The sale is this Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6, at the Victoria Curling Club, 1952 Quadra St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

• The books are cheap: hardcovers $3; softcovers $2; pocket books and children’s books $1. The prices haven’t risen since 2002.

• Payment is by cash, debit, Mastercard, Visa or American Express. No cheques.

• 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 Street, but be aware that parking on some of the nearby side streets is for residents only. The No. 6 bus goes along Quadra.

• Wear comfy shoes and prepare to be patient. This is a popular event. (If you have trouble with the patience part, we recommend our Self Help section.) The Good Fellows café in the curling club will be open if you get hungry.

• 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, May 7.

• After the teachers and non-profits have taken what they want, any remaining books will be shipped to California by a company that buys them by the pound. The books are then sold online or donated to literacy groups and charities.

• The money raised at the Times Colonist sale — a total of $5 million so far — goes to literacy-related projects on Vancouver Island. This year just over $300,000 was divided among 152 recipients, mostly schools.

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