9 things to know before attending the Winter Used Book Sale at the J

JCC Used Book Sale

JCC Used Book Sale

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

The St. Louis Jewish Community Center’s biannual Used Book Sale returns to the Staenberg Family Complex Arts & Education Building from Sunday, Jan. 28 – Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024. Patrons can once again stock up on a new selection of used reading materials of every genre—including mysteries, general fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and much more.

Book lovers, collectors, and avid readers all anticipate this event which benefits the Cultural Arts Department of the J. Thousands of titles include novels, biographies, politics, religion, sports, cookbooks, history, animals, art, science, science fiction, business, women’s issues, foreign languages, gardening, poetry, psychology, self-help, humor…the list goes on.

Parents and educators can hunt through a large selection of books for children and youth as well as educational materials for homeschoolers. Multiples of titles are available for book club reading along with miscellaneous videos, books on tape/CDs and DVDs. Books are priced from 50 cents to $3. Special items—collectibles, antiques, DVDs and more—are priced as marked. It’s important to note that each Sale consists of an entirely new collection as leftover books from the previous sale are donated.

The dates and admission prices for the St. Louis Jewish Community Center’s Winter Used Book Sale are as follows:

  • Preview Day – Sunday, Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • $10 at the door – all proceeds fund future Used BookSales
  • Free General Admission – Monday, Jan. 29 – Wednesday, Jan. 31 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Bag Day – Thursday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to – 7 p.m. Fill a bag for $5

But to maximize your book-buying opportunities, we wanted to prepare our readers for success by offering you 9 tried and true strategies. We turned to Author Anne Bogel, the creator of the blog Modern Mrs Darcy, and host of the “What Should I Read Next?” podcast and the “Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club.”

Bogel has been to more used book sales, than she can probably count, and offers these 9 strategies

1. Give yourself freedom to have fun with it.

My biggest tip has to do with mindset. Don’t try to maximize.

Don’t beat yourself up about coming home with a book you already own, or leaving a book at the sale that you thought you owned, but don’t. Take a chance on books that look interesting that you might end up not wanting to keep because at fifty cents to a dollar each that’s not much of a mistake, long-term.

This is a low-stakes way to build your book collection. Have fun with it.

2. Bring a tote bag (or three).

Cheap plastic bags may be available, but do yourself a favor and bring your own. Flat-bottomed fabric totes are ideal; they fold down to almost nothing but can accommodate stacks of books when full. (You’ll see people bring cardboard boxes, which may be fine for the car ride home, but please don’t bring them into the sale—your fellow browsing book lovers will thank you.)

3. Start fresh, then browse.

Have you ever been to IKEA? I enter IKEA filled with enthusiasm for all my home adventures. I’m going to organize my bathroom and find cute throw pillows and find a step stool for the pantry and wait, aren’t these planters cute? But I cannot sustain this pace for 300,000 square feet (which, if you’ve ever been to IKEA, you will not be surprised to learn is equal to about five football fields). And I leave a depleted, overwhelmed human who just wants to sit down and not make a decision about one more thing.

I want this book sale to be FUN for you, and so I ask that you tackle your priorities while you’re fresh and full of bookish enthusiasm. When your priorities are complete, browse at your leisure.

A room full of books sounds like heaven … but it can also be completely overwhelming. Hunt for your priority purchases before overwhelm sets in.

4. Stash your books by the register.

You brought your tote, but at most sales, you can camp your to-purchase stack by the cash register. If you have a few post-its and a pen with you, so much the better.

With these personal rules in place used book sale shopping turned out to be lots of fun.

5. Skip it.


JCC Used Book Sale

One way to avoid overwhelm is to not look at every book. If it brings you joy to run your hands over the spine of every single book on sale, have at it. But if overwhelm is an issue, you can skip aisles—maybe even rooms—of books. (At my local book sales, the large cookbook section isn’t worth the time. Maybe it’s different at your local sales?)

6. Know your priorities.

To tackle your priorities first, you have to know what they are. I can’t decide yours, but I know mine:

  1. Anything I’ve read and loved, but don’t yet own.
  2. Anything I want to read that’s available in a particularly attractive edition.
  3. Penguin classics, because used book sales turned me into a low-key collector.

Whatever your priorities are do those first.

7. Embrace serendipity. 

I’m not typically much of an impulse shopper, but here, it’s okay. Low stakes are your friend. Take a chance, and if that book doesn’t end up being right for you, you can give it to a friend, pop it in a Little Free Library, or donate it back to the used book sale and continue the circle of bookishness.

8. Judge a book by its cover. 

JCC Used Book Sale

Or spine. At a used book sale, buying a book because it’s pretty is 100% okay. That’s the real reason behind my Penguin classics collection: those cheerful orange spines make me happy every time I see them. So whether it’s an outdated history series or cookbooks featuring80s culinary classics, if you think that beautiful book would look great on your shelves, go for it.

9. Be patient. 

Unless you’re collecting the rare stuff, used book sales are rarely expensive. At many sales, books are half price on the last day; at our local sale; the last day is pay-what-you-wish. If you’re patient, you can get a serious bargain. (I’m impatient, but to each her own.)