It happened last week, as it happens at some point every summer.

I was driving down Main Road in Westport and saw the big yellow-and-white striped tent was out.

“Book fair time!” I thought excitedly. 

Every year, for as long as I can remember, that tent has popped up in early July, signaling what soon will be an absolute feast for the literary senses.

A giant used book fair, with thousands of books — divided up into genres, just like you’d find at a Barnes & Nobel — all for crazy cheap prices.

 I’ve gone there with $5 and come home with a small stack. 

Westport’s Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends’  56th Annual Book Fair — referred to as the Friends Book Fair or Quaker Book Fair — opened this weekend and runs 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through July 16, rain or shine.

I’ll simply say this: Go.

You will find anything from last year’s bestsellers to gorgeous old editions of “The Great Gatsby” or “Catch-22.”

You might see old Grisham paperbacks or beach book romances at 6-for-a-buck; last year’s best sellers for $2.75. 

It’s insane. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful.

And you will, at some point this week, see me browsing the fiction section.

According to their press release, there are more than 25,000 books for sale —I believe it. 

Most years I go two or three times, because the first day, there are so many books — and so many people — it’s almost overwhelming. You could spend an entire day hunting for gems.

They’ve also got a children’s book tent— and most years, lots of vinyl records, which alone can absorb me for a good hour.

I tend to go back later in the evening, toward the end of the week, when most of the books are picked over, and it’s easier for me to concentrate on what’s there.

Just glancing at my bookshelf now, I see a few gems I’ve found over the years: A bunch of Hunter S. Thompson paperbacks, a beautiful old copy of Thoreau’s “Walden,” Cormac MacCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” Kurt Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House.”

And some more recent popular books from a few years ago, that I’d never gotten around to reading, then found at the fair for a buck — “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” by Kim Edwards; “The Shipping News,” by E. Annie Proulx, “Amy and Isabelle,” by  Elizabeth Strout.

The book sale, which is now something of a SouthCoast tradition, is the primary yearly fundraiser for the Westport Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, and keeps their Meetinghouse — built more than 200 years ago — in working order.

According to their release, they start from scratch each year, relying on local reader donations. So keep in mind, if you need to donate books — we all know the feeling of stuffing books into overflowing shelves — that you can donate any time throughout the year at the Book Sorting Shed (I love that name) near the Meeting House at 938 Main Road. 

 

Lauren Daley is a freelance writer and book columnist. Contact her at ldaley33@gmail.com. She tweets @laurendaley1. Read more at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer.