Make the most of the Used Book Sale at the J with these tips


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

There is something quite wonderful about walking into a bookstore, engaging with all the possibilities in front of you, eventually making a choice and coming home with a brand-new book. But there is something also wonderful about picking up a used book, a book that has already been loved, given love and now offers an entirely different experience to a new reader.

There is just something about a used book and this weekend is where you will find thousands of them.

The Jewish Community Center’s biannual Used Book Sale returns Jan. 29 through Feb. 2 with offerings in every genre, including mysteries, general fiction, nonfiction, children’s books and much more.

“The Used Book Sale at the J is a great place to find amazing bargains and valuable collectibles, “said Lynn Wittels, president and CEO of the J. “The sale is well-recognized by book dealers and the literature community as being among the best in the St. Louis region.”

But before you head out, check out these tips to help you make the most of the sale.

Making you a winner at buying used books

The first thing to do is understand the calendar of events of the Used Book Sale at the J.

  • Preview day is Sunday, Jan. 29 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. with a $10 admission.
  • Free admission begins on Monday.
  • Hours are 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday
  • Thursday is bag day. Customers can fill a bag for $5 between 10 a.m. and 7p.m.

The second thing is get expert help. For this we are turning to my fifth-grade teacher and long-time J Used Book Sale volunteer, not to mention 2019 Jewish Light Unsung Hero. I have to call her Mrs. Davis, but you can call her Reva.

Mrs. Davis has volunteered at both the J’s Jewish Book Festival and the Used Book Sale for the past decade. She is a true lover of books and understands the magic of the Used Book Sale.

“Do I love books?  Absolutely!  My philosophy is you can never have too many books,” said Mrs. Davis.  “I reorganized my books as my shelves were bowing. I have collections on St Louis; Missouri; the 1904 World’s Fair; Louis and Clark; the Cardinals; Judaica; geography; travel and signed books from the JBF.  The Used Book Sale has helped me build my collections.”

Mrs. Davis’ tips

“Thursday is Bag Day. You can stuff as many books that fit into a bag for $5,” said Mrs. Davis. “Bring your bags, rolling suitcase, or whatever and plan to fill them up. We have carts to help you take them to your car if needed.”

If you have multiple bags filled and want to keep shopping, ask the volunteers if you can leave your bags with them till you checkout.

“And if you can, as you check out, we like stacking the same priced books together, which helps with keying the register,” said Mrs. Davis.

More tips

  • Be adventurous – at these low prices you can afford to take a risk. Take a chance on books that look interesting to you because at 50 cents to a dollar each that’s not much of a gamble. This is a low-stakes way to build your book collection. Have fun with it.
  • Bring a tote bag (or three). Even if it’s not officially “bag day” 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.
  • Know what you’re looking for and stick to your plan. This actually allows you to move quickly, find what you want, and then browse.
  • Be patient. Unless you’re collecting the unusual stuff, used book sales are rarely expensive. If you’re patient and lucky and can wait to bag day you can get a serious bargain.