The Planned Parenthood Book Sale, The Wrong Box, & Audiobooks

Volunteers getting ready for the Planned Parenthood Book Sale

We went to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale,  which is held  biannually at the 4-H Building (45,000 sq. ft)  on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

It is a family tradition.  My grandmother used to attend the sale.  She filled her shelves with 19th-century editions of Thackeray, Dickens, and George Meredith. I was awed: why, oh why didn’t I live in Des Moines?

And now it’s our turn to support Planned Parenthood.

Tonight we staggered home with a box of splendid books, among them Edna O’Brien’s The Little Red Chairs,  the Native American writer Linda Hogan’s neglected novel Solar Storm, books by Ted Mooney, Marge Piercy, Nina Berberova, Stephen Dixon, and Amy Tan, and a dictionary.

But I had another reason to attend: I wanted to buy my own books back.

This spring, my husband donated the wrong box to the sale. This kind of muddle regularly happens in our distracted household.   Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I discovered the mix-up.  Gone were some of my favorite books:  Library of America editions of Louisa May Alcott and  Laura Ingalls Wilder, a Penguin Galaxy hardback copy of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, 1992 Modern Library hardcovers of Dostoevsky, and God knows what else.

I lamented.  But you know what I say:  Get over it!

The Oxford (left) and  Modern Library (right) edition of “Crime and Punishment”

I  found one of my books at the sale:  the 1990s Modern Library hardcover copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, translated by Constance Garnett.  And it is a relief to have it back, because Nicholas Paternak Slater’s translation reads like English in translation (the Oxford hardcover is gorgeous, though).

Well, it’s all for a good cause!  I’ll just have to make do or buy the books all over again.


Anne Bogel’s podcast What Should I Read Next? is very enjoyable, because she is  well-read in many genres, comfortable interviewing people, and has a kind of alternative radio vibe.   In Episode 173,  “Clocking in at the reading factory,” she interviews Natalie Van Waning, a blogger who  has decided to read long books this year.

Whether you love or hate long books, you’ll enjoy the discussion.  What constitutes a long book  anyway?   (My husband says 500 pages, I say 600.)  And what’s on Natalie’s TBR? John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of her selections.

And then they digressed a bit about audiobooks.  Does listening to an audiobook count as reading?  Yes, they say.  And I’m sure it does  but I admit I have never listened to an entire audiobook.

Years ago, I tried listening to one of Paul Theroux’s travel books while I did the dishes.  But it was so absorbing that I simply bought the book and finished it!

And I tried to listen to one of Elizabeth George’s mysteries while I walked, but the noise of traffic drowned it out.

Do I need better headphones?  Perhaps it’s as simple as that.  I don’t even have an iPod.

What equipment do I need?  Please advise.

12 thoughts on “The Planned Parenthood Book Sale, The Wrong Box, & Audiobooks”

  1. Equipment? You need a car or a treadmill. I very much enjoyed audio books when I had to drive many hours for my work. At that time they were “books on tape” and I got them from the library or rented them from some outfit in California. The secret is to reject abridged versions. Full length, with a good reader, they eat up the miles. Later, recalling a book, I could not be sure whether I had read it or heard it.
    At a later stage of life I enjoyed recorded books on a MP3 player (ipod) while walking on the treadmill. I tried paperbacks and magazines but they jiggled too much and I risked losing my balance while turning pages.
    Sitting in a chair, however, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine I need to have a physical book in hand.

    1. I knew I was missing something. A car! But I do have an old-fashioned MP3 player. I’m thinking I need better earbuds. Mine also fall out of my ears.

      Sent from my iPad


  2. My sympathies over the lost box. Yours was a sadly familiar story. Roughly half of the thirty or so book sales I’ve organized have involved a hunt for a box that was donated in error. We are rarely successful.

    Does listening to an audio book count as reading? Not to these eyes and ears. The reader of an audio book brings his or her own interpretation of the text, particularly when it comes to dialogue. Must add that I don’t recall as much from a book I’ve heard while, say, driving through the congested streets of Montreal, than I do a book read in the silence of my living room.

    This is not to say I don’t listen to audio books. Librivox is a favourite. Because its participants are volunteers, I tend to follow my favourite readers. It’s interesting in that they may choose a book with which I was entirely unfamiliar. That they’ve chosen to invest so much time in the recording is a recommendation, of sorts.

    I used to struggle with ear buds until our daughter gave me proper headphones for my iPod. Such a difference! Such richness of sound! Recommended!

    1. Brian, I am so glad I am not the only one who has lost a box! It is tough to find the books, even if you go to a sale early. These were not rare books, but some were expensive. The book scouts got there first. The good thing I can say is that a box of Viragos I contributed seemed all to have been bought. Nothing could compel me to read another Winifred Holtby!

      To me audiobooks seem a little lazy, but that’s obviously the prejudice of a person who does not “read” them. I will check out LibriVox, though. With the proper headphones, I am sure it would make walks more enjoyable.

  3. I have had a 120 mile each way commute on Mondays and Fridays since 2006 (and 24 miles each way daily) , and there is a box of really LONG books on cd stashed behind my couch, the first three Pallisers, first three Barsets, The Way we Live Now, all the major Hardy novels except Jude (i didnt make it past the pig-slaughtering scene), and many, many others including the late Henry James. I would still be listening to them, and have a fine shelf of new ones waiting including Anna Karenina and Moby Dick, alas I got a new Jeep last year who is so modern that she doesnt have a CD player. I still havent found out how to work the internet from the touch screen to download from Audible, and so have been wandering through the deserts of Sirius XM. Its entertaining, but its not really like what I am used to. There were times when I got so involved in what I was listening to that I quite forgot where I was going! I miss my CDs so much!

    1. I was driving to Washington DC while listening to a very good recorded book. If I was headed toward DC, why was I seeing signs announcing the George Washington Bridge? In my absorption I had gotten on the New Jersey Turnpike going the wrong way.

    2. Maybe a boom Box? I’ve never had a long commute, but CDs are what I see at the library. Cars are all too modern.

      Sent from my iPad


  4. My 03 Jeep could carry 10 discs in the back and 1 in the dash, it was pure book listening heaven. Add the version of Return of the Native read by Alan Rickman, and I was in another world!!! A boom box sounds like a great idea, I could bungee cord it to the passenger seat.

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