The third and final day of sorting, stacking and pricing books came to a temporary, hilarious halt Wednesday afternoon in the Orchard Homes Country Life Club.
Someone had produced a copy of “Hoorah for the Bra: A Perky Peek at the History of the Brassiere,” and, oh, the puns did fly.
“An uplifting story that never sags,” the hardbound book cover promised.
Bra hooks held it shut. When unclasped, the book revealed page after page of — yep — pop-ups, to the hoots of several women preparing for Thursday’s opening of the 58th annual American Association of University Women book sale.
When the fun was done, “Hoorah for the Bra” was placed back in its box on the specialty table between “Joy of Cooking” and “Farts in the Wild: A Spotters Guide.”
There’ll be something for everyone when doors open Thursday at 10 a.m. on the four-day book sale that dates back to 1960. These days the AAUW puts it on in conjunction with Phi Delta Kappa, a professional education association that uses proceeds to fund scholarships for education students at the University of Montana.
Nancy Zadra, who belongs to both organizations, made a display that includes photos of last year’s scholarship recipients Mariah Rys-Sikora, Breanna Saxton, Madison Ravarino and Ashley Meyora. Saxton, she said, came in Tuesday to help get ready for the book sale. Ravarino is scheduled for Thursday on Zadra’s list of 30-plus volunteers.
AAUW chips in with donations and sponsorships of education-based projects, said Ann Sharkey, an officer with the organization. Last year’s sale helped fund two Girl Scout Lego and robotics teams at the state competition and a women’s oral history project at the University of Montana.
AAUW donates each year to the YWCA’s GUTS program (Girls Using Their Strength) and sponsors a young women’s leadership program at UM. It chipped in on the Montana Women’s Mural, painted by Missoula's Hadley Ferguson, that was unveiled at the state Capitol in Helena in 2015.
Sharkey said AAUW has developed curricula for Start Smart workshops to train young women to effectively negotiate salaries. The Missoula chapter holds its training at the university. The national organization wants to train 30 million women by 2030.
“The projects we choose are ones that go along with our goals of education and equity for women and girls,” Sharkey said.
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As usual, the sale will charge $1.50 for each stacked inch of books. Sunday is bag sale day — $10 for a bag of books.
Specialty books have their own prices. On the same specialty table as books about bras and farts are boxes crammed with the works of local and regional writers: Ivan Doig, Sherman Alexie and Annie Proulx; Richard Ford, Amy Ragsdale, Jamie Harrison and on.
“Always lots of signed James Lee Burke, Tom McGuane, C.J. Box … I mean, you name it. And we’ve got everything in brand new, pristine condition,” said Andrea Merrill-Maker, a veteran of dozens of such book sales in Missoula.
There is even a copy or two of “Less,” the “laugh-till-you-can’t breathe funny” novel (in the words of a Washington Post reviewer) that on Monday won University of Montana graduate Andrew Sean Greer a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
“We have some vintage books that are especially noteworthy this year, thanks to donations,” Zadra added.
Heading the list are rare offerings on the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Lewis and Clark expedition. Their donor “had a really clean, careful way of taking care of things, and that’s just almost unheard of anymore,” Merrill-Maker said. “Some years we get better stuff than others, and this is just kind of an exceptional year.”
The AAUW sale is by far the oldest annual book sale in Missoula, and one of two that draw hundreds of patrons and thousands of book donations each year. The Friends of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is held in November. The two have different fundraising goals but share similar success and, in some cases like that of Merrill-Maker, the same volunteers.
Zadra wouldn’t venture a guess at the number of books on sale this week.
“We have thousands,” she said. “We have more books than we have ever had. It’s incredible.”
Doors open at 10 a.m. each of the next four days at the Orchard Homes Country Life Club, 2537 S. Third St. W. They stay open until 7 p.m. on Thursday, 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.