It takes a rarified bibliophile to get the most out of Friends of the Fresno County Public Library's annual Big Book Sale, which runs through Sunday at Sierra Vista Mall.
Not that the casual reader won't find something in the 200,000-plus books that get donated each year. But this isn't Amazon, and the chances of picking up a popular best-seller are slim (and there's no overnight delivery).
You have to dig. It's part of the experience.
That means sifting through the Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel and Louis L'Amour novels, through multiple copies of Vladimir Nabokov's "Ada" (there will be zero copies of "Lolita" because what reader would ever part with a copy of "Lolita"?) and outdated computer manuals.
That's the thing about the this book sale; it's easy to get overwhelmed. There are just too many books. Just ask the volunteers working to set the tables up each day.
Last year, it took 10 shipping containers, an industrial crane and a week's worth of prep to get all the books set up at the mall in two storefronts — one for fiction and the other for nonfiction, with sections for health, diet, biography, history, politics, gardening and golf.
Here are some tips to help you get the most from the sale.
Make a list
My big problem with sales like these is that I am never prepared. It's the same thing at record stores, where I end up spending an hour flipping through every single album because I can't remember one band I like that starts with the letter "A."
Now, I wouldn't deny you the adventure of wandering around until a book jacket catches your eye, but a good list will keep you on task.
Forget about individual titles.
List the authors you like or the types of books you are interested in buying. Then don't be afraid to ask for help. The books are in alphabetical order, by author, but there are volunteers to point you in the right direction if you need assistance.
Buy in bulk
This is Thrifting 101.
Prices range from 50 cents to $5. At the end of the weekend, there is a $5 brown-bag sale. I'm told a brown paper bag will hold 75 paperback Harlequin romance novels.
At those prices, you can afford to take a chance on a title that might have limited return from an entertainment standpoint. For $20 or so, you can pick up a year's worth of reading.
Worst case, you can donate the books back next year.
Shop early and often
With close to a quarter-million books coming in, it's impossible to get every title put out immediately. New stock gets added each morning and as space becomes available throughout the day.
The smartest shoppers will hit the sale several times throughout the weekend and at different times of the day.
Friends of the Fresno County Public Library Big Book Sale, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 23 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 24, Sierra Vista Mall, 1050 Shaw Ave. in Clovis, www.fresnolibrary.org