Foraging at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale

planned parenthood book sale 635787938090989435-dmrdc5-5c0tm3808qq457a6n6a-originalShopping at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale in Des Moines is a family tradition.  My grandmother went to the sale in the ’60s, and I envied her 19th-century editions of Thackeray’s Henry Esmond and George Meredith’s Diana of the Crossways. My husband and I have faithfully attended the sale since moving back to the Midwest.

Founded in 1961, the Planned Parenthood Book Sale is held twice a year in the 4-H Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  I have found Viragos, an almost complete set of Trollope, and out-of-print books by Lawrence Durrell, Angela Thirkell, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Alice Adams, Robert Graves, Margery Sharp, Violet Trfusis, Edna Ferber, and on and on.

Last night was Opening Night.  The scouts had already picked over the books.  Truly, there were gaps in the classics section and the books were already leaning.

If you don’t find something right away, you keep going.   We found a few classics, some literary novels, vintage mysteries, SF, family sagas, and so on.  Honestly?  This collection looked very like last spring’s, which makes me wonder what happens to all the books we donated over the summer.  It needs an infusion of new old books.

Here’s what I found, after hours of going through what felt like every book in the fiction section.  (Of course I didn’t mind.)

augustus-john-williams-22086279Many of you know John Williams’ Stoner, a Willa Catherish novel about a modest English professor with an unhappy marriage and a career stymied by departmental politics.  What you may not know is that his historical novel Augustus, told in the form of documents, letters, and memoirs, is even better. It won the National Book Award in 1973.  I read this long ago but didn’t have a copy, so this was an exciting find.

raymond-chandler-omnibus-planned-parenthoodOddly, I’ve never read Raymond Chandler.  This Raymond Chandler omnibus includes The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window, and The Lady in the Lake.


Bloggers have praised Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and I hope the Morland Dynasty books are historical novels a la Poldark rather than romances.  (I actually bought a huge pile of them, but I can’t fit them in one picture.)  It was a pity buy, so let’s hope they’re fun. Even if they’re fodder for Little Free Libraries, that’s okay.

planned-parenthood-ford-and-jhabvalaI have never seen this novel by Ford Madox Ford.  I idolize Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, a novelist best known for  her screenplays for the Merchant-Ivory films, so was pleased to find this early novel. I cherish the thought of spending time with Jhabvala again.


Katrina Kittle’s graceful novels are good reads, even though issue-oriented. And, on a different note, Alice Adams’ stunning literary novels (also praised by Tony’s Book World) are out-of-print so I was thrilled to find this book for only $1.  (It has never been read!)


I’m behind on my Ian McEwan reading, and Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was well-reviewed a few years ago.  (She is the sister of the brilliant Karen E. Bender, whom I interviewed here a few years ago.)

planned-parenthood-teyHow can you go wrong with an omnibus of Josephine Tey?


I’ve been planning to read Atwood’s SF trilogy and here’s the first book.

planned-atwood-the-year-of-the-floodAnd here’s the second book.

Yup, Cathy Guisewite is my favorite cartoonist.  I have so much in common with Cathy.  The eating, the shopping, well, maybe not the shopping, but feeling the social pressure of being a woman in the twentieth century….  Well, I know it’s the twenty-first cnetury, but Cathy got canceled!

the-other-by-thomas-tryon-9780449226841-uk-300This horror novel by Thomas Tryon, an actor turned writer in the ’60s, has been reissued by NYRB.  An eerie novel about twins.

Book club editions of Clifford D. Simak.

Book club editions of Clifford D. Simak.

Clifford D. Simak, an American science fiction who won three Hugos, a Nebula Award, and was name SFWA Grand Master, is neglected these days, but his work is very good.  He is best-known for City, a poignant novel about robots and talking dogs.  He has a thing about robots, and, as so often in literature, they are more human than humans.  My favorite of his books is They Walked Like Men, a very witty, very original novel about a journalist who discovers, with the help of a talking dog, that Earth’s real estate is being taken over by aliens.  (I wrote about it here.)  I know nothing about these “new” books, except they are some of his later books, and I have heard those are uneven.  Each book was only $1, so if it’s fodder for Little Free Libraries, that’s okay.

And there were a few I didn’t get around to taking picutres of.

Another box of books to add to the other boxes of books…

9 thoughts on “Foraging at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale

  1. So many great books! It’s been years since I’ve been to a charity or library sale. I have the Tey and the Chandler omnibuses. I’m so jealous of stack of Cynthia Harrod-Eagles books. I almost never see them. I’ll be curious to find out how you like them.


  2. Well! you have done better than I have at recent sales. I find copies of The Notebook and memoirs by former cabinet members. You will enjoy the Jhabvala. I read everything I could find by her at one time and this one is rather sweet. The Merchant Ivory team made an early movie version of it, shooting it twice, once in English and once in Hindi.


    • Nancy, I almost finished the Jhabvala today! It is great: I’m so glad I found it. I didn’t know about the movie.
      Yes, sales are hit or miss. So many copies of The Notebook here, too.


  3. Thoroughly recommend the Chandler – he is one of the great stylists of the 20th century, as well as being a great story teller, and he almost single handedly invented the hard-boiled detective archetype.


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