Book Fair Futures 2020 | Newberry

Book Fair Futures 2020

“We’ll meet again: don’t know where, don’t know when….”

No, I have opted not to write any songs today, despite April Fool’s Day being an excellent day for it. Instead, I feel it is time we got into one of those annual Book Fair Futures columns, where I analyze what books have been packed to this point, and let you know what you have to look forward to. I was not looking forward to this. What with the hold on book donations and this lockdown business, PLUS the fact that my data only reaches as far as what we gad packed by President’s Day this year, I did not think there would be much of a positive note in this report.

But hey! We actually have more paperback fiction packed as of mid-February as we had at the whole Book Fair in July last year! Okay, donations of paperback fiction slowed to a trickle around 2001. Last year we had ten boxes of it and this year—so far—eleven. But wait! There’s more!

Just as a matter of fact, we have just as many boxes of American Indian Studies, Gardening, and Anthropology as we did last July. And this, mind you, is with two-thirds as many boxes overall. True, those are not exactly massive subjects, but if you want to get into the four or five table categories, we have nearly the same amount this year in Religion as last year, and the same goes for Travel. We also have nearly the same amount in categories like How To (Head), Drama, Hardback Fiction, Foreign Language, Political Science, and transportation. So if you were afraid the supply of books on trains or Swedish-English dictionaries, be not afraid.

In fact, there are one or two categories where we have more books packed now than we did by July. So bring your Clorox-cleaned currency along if you are hankering for books on Antiques, Archaeology, Humor, Nature, or Poetry. We’ve got ‘em, and in multitudes.

How do we do it, friends? Well, we didn’t. You did. For some reason, donations in other categories are down. It isn’t too hard to figure some of these out. Last year’s collections in Art and Cooking, you may recall, were so big that they forced Chicago out of its usual spot to a corner between records and Children’s books. Things are back to normal. As of President’s Day, we had a little more than half the Art we had last year, and Cooking, in spite of a single massive donation of one collector’s cookbooks, had risen to only a little over a third of 2019’s offering. (I know our cookbook pricer put in extra effort in February and march, so I expect that number to be better once I can get into the library and check the raw data…if cookbooks can be said to be raw.)

Similarly, Children’s books have sunk back to normal (about a third of last year’s record number of boxes) and History, though still huge, is at about two-thirds of the over two hundred books we have last year. How To (Hands) is at roughly one-third of last year’s massive total, and so is Mystery: very good, I think, if it means people who are sheltering at home have projects and whodunnits to keep them occupied.

I don’t know if anyone out there will weep to learn that Sociology is at roughly a fourth of last year’s strength, but that Sports has dropped to a third of what we had in 2019 may dismay some shoppers. Science Fiction also rose to over a hundred boxes last year, and was up to merely forty by mid-February. (But we dealt with a huge collection at the end of the month, so that, too, will look perkier once I can get my hands on my notes.)

All in all, except for this doldrum period while we wait for viruses to go ‘way, it all seems fairly solid. Maybe we don’t have two hundred boxes of History, but we’ve got well over a hundred. And you’ve got all those books of cartoons and jokes in Humor and those postcard books in Antiques….

Oh, and postcards! There’ll be lines out the door of toilet paper proportions when the public hears that both Benito Mussolini and Jason Voorhees are represented in our postcard collection this year. (I haven’t even mentioned our sole, solitary baseball card.) You have been warned.

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