I have a problem. I read a lot. The reading isn’t the problem; it’s the books that are the problem. Mostly because I don’t like to use the library. I’ve been like this since I was a little kid. I like to own the books. I like to buy the books. I like to have the books near me. I like to buy books for other people. In fact, I find every gift giving opportunity the perfect time to force books upon people I care about.
But it has come to the point that I feel guilty when buying books. They pile up on the couch, on my shelves, beside my bed, on the floor. I read them all, eventually, but they keep collecting. There are times when I can fight through my problem. Months go by and not a single new book passes through my doors. I have such a back log of previously purchased books that it doesn’t infringe on my reading habits.
Other times though, other times I struggle. Once a year, every year, in Sweden I am challenged. Because every year in February, all of Sweden has a book sale. Literally (see what I did there?). The entire country has a book sale. A bokrea if you will. It’s incredible and horribly overwhelming for the bibliophile in me. This year’s sale started on February 25th and most places will keep it going for a couple of weeks.
The whole thing has quite a bit of history to it, damn near 90 years of history. The whole thing started in the ‘20s. There is even an organization behind the whole idea called Svenska Förläggareföreningen (The Swedish Publishers’ Association). Of course, this being Sweden, there are plenty of rules and regulations to keep things fair. One of the big ones being that the book sale starts on the same day for everyone in Sweden. The fear is that if everyone goes willy nilly offering sales prices on books, the whole structure will deteriorate into chaos. And so, there will be no cheating. Of course, this being a working economy, game theory does come into play.
This year, someone tried to cheat. It was none other than the evil empire of Swedish grocery stores, ICA. ICA Stig, the mastermind behind the plot, tried to start the book sale the day before the official start date. Public pressure eventually forced ICA into an awkward compromise and the book sale lives on.
As a general rule, I like competition. And while these rules smack of anti-competition, my love of books trumps my love of competition. Anything that creates a buzz around books for several weeks is ok by me. Unless you’re burning them. Burning books is not ok by me. So every year, I become a reluctant participant in the sale. Reluctant because I don’t need more books. Reluctant because I want more books.
This year, after wandering through several book stores, I hadn’t made a single purchase. I had a few specific books in mind, and to my great dismay, and great luck, they were not on sale. Then it happened. The last book store of the day. I couldn’t resist any longer. I’d been eyeing this book for a while (even when the book sale isn’t going on I have a habit of milling about in book stores). Norrlands Akvavit. I’m hoping Torgny Lindgren can ease my book buying guilt.
Welcome to Sweden. And a countrywide book sale.
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