Swimsuit weather is finally here, and you'll need something to do while perfecting that glorious sunburn. Assuming that you're, like, so over the whole knitting craze, you might want to dust off another cobwebby summer tradition: the beach book. And whether you prefer Philip Roth or Dr. Phil, summer book fairs greatly increase your chances of finding that perfect paperback on the cheap. So stretch out those neck-craning muscles and sharpen those get-outta-my-way elbows--it's time go a-hunting.
Former President Bill Clinton kicks off this event Thursday night at 6 p.m. to discuss his forthcoming memoir, "My Life." If that doesn't rock your world, choose from more than 100 literary conferences, 2,000 exhibits featuring the latest in every genre from cook books to graphic novels, and the more than 500 authors (like Louise Erdrich, Nelson DeMille and Larry Flynt) just dying to sign your book, magazine or forehead. The catch: This is an "industry" event, so you'll need to provide some sort of evidence that you're an author, bookseller, librarian, publisher or reporter. Think creatively, then register online.
Sometimes it's still nice to be read to, especially when the reading comes from the nasal, Grandma-like voice of NPR superstar David Sedaris. Barbara's Bookstore in Oak Park will host a free reading from Sedaris's new book of essays, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by a Q&A and autograph session. If you like your poignant tales of childhood-gone-awry served with a heaping side of sarcasm, show up early--crowds are expected to gather by 5 p.m. to battle over the 50 or so seats.
Brandeis Book Sale
The Brandeis University National Women's Committee kicks serious literary butt. As the largest friends-of-a-library organization on Earth, these gals have been holding one of the world's biggest outdoor book sales for 45 years. Three circus tents transform Skokie's Old Orchard Mall area into--you guessed it--a circus, pitting an estimated 25,000 book worms against nearly 500,000 books. That equals a mere 20 books per shopper, so if you want a head-start, $40 will get you into a June 10 sneak-peek from 6-10 p.m.
Newberry Library Sale
For the 20th year, this esteemed Gold Coast research library has sorted more than 100,000 donated books into 50 painstaking categories, from "Antiques" to "Zoology"--only to watch shoppers rip it all to shreds like starved hyenas. Used audio books, records, CDs and movies add to the madness, and much of it comes dirt cheap--often just one buck.
Chicago Tribune Printers Row Book Fair
Each year the former book-making hub of Printers Row lures more than 75,000 fest-goers with an overpowering cocktail of new, used and vintage books; free literary panels and seminars; and readings with authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Dave Eggers and Augusten Burroughs. With 190 booksellers, food vendors and face-painters sprawled across five city blocks, this shebang is so big you might actually get lost. But hey, at least you'll have something to read.
Borders Bargain Sale
True, the bargain bins at Borders aren't always filled with the hippest books--but imagine four to 10 times the selection! All Chicago area stores will be erecting outdoor tents and tables to unload thousands of these surplus treasures, along with this added bait: Buy two, get one free. Sure, you might feel less maverick sipping lattes at a shopping center megastore, but when you're paying only four bucks for a brand new hardcover first edition, who can complain?
Bucktown Arts Fest/Damen Branch Library Sale
Come for the cut-rate books ... stay for the juried art show! Since 1992, the Damen Branch of the Public Library has raised money by pawning off overstock at this free Bucktown festival. But the library skipped the 2003 event, resulting in this year's jackpot: A surplus of several thousand, featuring a selection heavy on art, social science, history, biography and mass-market paperbacks.
Daniel Kraus is a metromix special contributor.