Friday Wrap-Up: Browse On Book Lovers

I went to the VNSA Used Book Sale last weekend (Phoenix’s largest used book sale) and faced rows and rows and rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of books to buy. One of the volunteers told me that there were about 600,000 books for sale that weekend.

600,000. A number that could be rounded up to, oh, a MILLION. 

The VNSA volunteers do a fantastic job putting the whole thing together, but when you get to those kinds of numbers in one big consolidated weekend, there’s really no way to keep much organization.

Books were arranged in loose topics (cookbooks/science/fiction/etc), with some smaller subtopics sprinkled in (fiction=suspense/romance/mystery/sci-fi), but beyond that there wasn’t much.

No alphabetical ordering. No Dewey.


It was terrifying, but also a bit exciting at the same time. See, I’m all about the spreadsheet to-be-read list and the strategized library trips. Rarely do I go into a bookstore or library without having a list of the books that I want to get. It’s best that way because it keeps me from getting too many.

But, going into the VNSA with little more than a rough outline allowed for some of the off-the-wall browsing that can be so rewarding for readers as well. I picked my way through the health section, detoured into mythology, jumped over to classics, and then to cookbooks. I came. I bought books. Now, I will read.

All of this got me thinking about the importance of a bit of unleashed browsing in our book lives. Do you think it’s important? Do you hit the book store with a list or are you all wavy gravy about it? 

About nikki_steele

Freelance writer and editor. Creator of BookPairing blog.
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  • Jamie

    I love this sale! I missed it this year but it is seriously a good find. I love to browse the science section and find old first edition anatomy books from the 1940’s and field guides.

    Most of the time I hit up the library with a specific idea of what I want to find, usually non-fiction books. When it is non-fiction I like to browse and take a chance.

    • Nikki Steele

      I definitely wanted to hit the science section too! It looked like a great area to explore in.

      Interesting that some things you decide to browse in some areas and not others. That’s pretty cool.

  • Amanda @ On a Book Bender

    I’d just get overwhelmed by the lack of organization and give up, I think. Mostly because I’m not a browser. I’m a get in, get out, get on with life kind of person. I don’t dawdle well. And I’ve tried.

    • Nikki Steele

      Hahah it was pretty overwhelming. I guess that’s why it’s nice to keep it as a once a year type of thing :D

  • Melissa

    Sometimes I go to the bookstore with a specific list, but at almost every used bookstore I tend to just wander. I love stumble upon a great book because of a staff recommendation or sheer luck. There’s something magical in that!

    • Nikki Steele

      Oooh good point. I think staff recommendations are the in-between browsing/list where you can easily find some magic.

  • Charleen Lynette

    I tried letting go of my TBR and bringing back a little random discovery into my reading… but I didn’t have much luck. None of the magical, serendipitous experiences I remember from my pre-internet browsing days.

    • Nikki Steele

      Hahah the internet continues to botch it all up!

  • Katherine Nabity

    I’m wavering between “How did I not know about this sale?!” and “I’m so glad I didn’t know about this sale.” ;)

    I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a bookstore with a list, which means I spend a lot of time suddenly remembering the names of authors and darting from shelf to shelf. There was a bookstore in Omaha that had a very…loose organization. It was always fun to slowly wander through. I always take a list to the library, but I love just pulling something off the shelf that catches my eye.

    • Nikki Steele

      Hahah every year right after Valentine’s Day! (And honestly it’s not too scary. I got an entire reusable shopping bag stuffed with books and it came out to $16. Go on Sundays when everything is half off!)

      Aww I think that’s a good way to balance it too. Bring a list but also allow for some discovery.

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

    I always have a really specific library list, I rarely browse there. But I do occasionally do it at Bookmans… since I usually have trade credit to spend, and on days I can’t find what I’m hoping to find, I always grab something random!

    • Nikki Steele

      Bookmans is a great place for browsing! I think their store just kind of fosters that whole browsing experience :D

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