Who could forget the days of the book fair! I would audibly gasp when I saw the rolling shelves and trunks of books awaiting set-up and then get a dizzying feeling the moment we were released by our teacher into the book fair. Really, anyone who was in grade school in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, or ’10s has this shared experience and it’s one that’s rife with nostalgia. Here’s what I miss most about that one week in grade school when literally nothing was sad and everything was amazing and bookish.
1. The gym was turned into a library for a week
I was not an athletic kid. So when the book fair rolled into town for a week and took over the gym, I was ecstatic. The place where I tried very hard to dodge balls and not get tagged was now basically a bookstore! If only my gym now had fewer weights and more books. Whaddya think, Crunch?
2. The pre-shop checklist
A few days before the book fair arrived, you were given a (what seemed like at the time) miles-long list of titles that would be present at the fair. I would take my time, carefully peruse each one, and look at the cover, trying to judge if I’d enjoy reading it. I’d then make painstaking tick marks next to each book I wanted on the order form and present it to my mom for approval.
3. Shopping each aisle slowwwly
The school book fair was really the first time I ever shopped solo. If I hadn’t filled out the order form ahead of time, my mom sent me to school with a crisp $20 bill. I would walk up and down the tables, my fingers skimming over the top of the covers. I’d stop and read the backs of the ones that looked interesting. Then, once I felt I had a good grasp of what I might want to get with my money, I began budgeting. Math was never (still isn’t) my strong suit, so I’d be counting on my fingers to make sure I didn’t go over twenty dollars and hold my breath when I was rung up at the counter.
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4. Comparing notes (and books) with friends
When you had friends willing to share their loot, your book haul could triple. I remember sitting cross-legged with friends talking about which books they bought and which ones I bought. I had a massive (and I mean massive) crush on the fictional character Encyclopedia Brown, so I usually picked up one or two of those books, but friends promised to loan me the new Goosebumps they’d just bought. A pretty good trade if you ask me. It’s also how I first got my hands on Scary Stories to Read in the Dark and I’ve never been the same since, TBH.
5. Discovering new reads
I mean, I still get to do this every day in my line of work, but book fairs introduced me to so many books that absolutely shaped my identity: The Boxcar Children series, all of Shel Silverstein’s catalogue, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, Alice in Rapture, Sort of (I mean really the whole Alice series), The Magic School Bus series, Bunnicula, Hatchet, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Face on the Milk Carton, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Henry Huggins, and everything Judy Blume ever wrote, but a special shout-out to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Is all this nostalgia making you ache for the book fairs of your youth? Want to jump back into the days of recess, gel pens, snap bracelets and Dunkaroos in your lunchbox? Wish you could spend an hour browsing for the perfect book(s) to read? ME TOO.
Join Read it Forward and Penguin Random House at the first-ever Book Fair for Grownups on Saturday, November 23! All afternoon, there will be one-hour sessions where you can browse the latest and greatest books and merchandise, participate in throwback activities, and get schooled by beloved authors.
Admittance to the Book Fair for a 60-minute session
Pop culture trivia, giveaways, interactive Mad Libs, an awkward school photo booth
Custom patches by Stoney Clover Lane and retro crafts by Glue
Author-led Music Lessons! English Class! Science Lab! Bake Sale!
A curated selection of books and merchandise for sale
Snacks, drinks, gift bag, and more!
Date & Time:
Saturday, November 23
Doors open at noon
248 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018
Featured Image: Imgur/Carlonicus