Ah, the book sale of the West Tisbury library! It’s an annual feast for bibliophiles. This year I’ve got to be there right when the doors open. There was no telling what treasures I had missed out on last summer when, 10 or so minutes late, I joined the horde of book lovers. That’s the diverse species of individuals engaged in a balancing act between the civility befitting men of letters, and aggressiveness in capturing that long sought-after author or book title of cult status.

The tables with rows upon rows of books were arranged pretty much the same way as the year before. Photography, high on my list, was situated near the entrance. Equipped with brown shopping bags, I was ready to join the fray. First, you have to ascertain in which direction the line at a table, or the circle around it, is moving. Then you look for an opening. It occurs whenever a bookworm becomes engrossed in a tome, thereby holding up the line on his one side, while thinning it on his other. I didn’t have to wait long for a gap. Gently inserting myself, shoulder first, into the line, I scanned the bookscape laid out before me.

Right away I alighted on Die Alpen, a large-format German picture book, dated 1927, with wonderfully detailed black-and-white reproductions of the Alpine mountains. Ten dollars seemed a bit steep, but the volume appealed to more than just the photographer in me.

It took me back to my teens when, living far away from the Alps, I became fascinated with them and read everything available on the subject — topography, climbing techniques, even the history of first ascents. Case in point: the Matterhorn, first scaled in 1865 by, of all people, an Englishman, Edward Whymper. But I digress. Books do that to you. “There is no Frigate like a Book to take us Lands Away,” to quote Emily Dickinson, that recluse of Amherst, very likely tucked away over on the poetry table.

I quickly came across another good find, Creation, color photos by the great Ernst Haas, definitely a contender. I started feeling the line pressing against me. I either could hold my ground, feigning transport into Lands Away and forcing others to move around me, or step back and give up my place in the line. It is a matter of what other promising books you have spied near you. I decided to stay put and leaf through Creation. I remembered seeing one of the pictures years ago when I marveled at its minimalist use of color and composition. In went the second book into the bag.

Next came a short visit to the art table, where I snagged a large-format, bilingual book, Christliche Kunst (Christian Art), showing woodcuts, etchings, paintings and sculptures of Christian themes, just the right present for a family member. We don’t mind exchanging gifts with hand-written dedications from and to perfect strangers.

On to the table with foreign language books, German ones, another area of interest high on my list. Here the pickings are usually slim, but so is the line of buyers. You find primers of the old school, holding forth on conjugation of irregular German verbs, with sentences on the order of “Franz runs/has run/ran after his dog Waldi.”

I weighed whether a volume giving the etymology of German words was worth its price. A random check informed me that, before Kragen (collar) assumed the modern meaning of upper part of a garment, it used to be another word for the human neck. When was the last time I needed to know this old high German tidbit about Kragen? The book landed back on the table.

I wandered the aisles past biographies and autobiographies in search of further frigates and made landfall at reference and dictionaries. Cyclopedias! They are a weakness of mine. Though largely made obsolete by the Web, they still give me a sense of reassurance — with all their listings of dates and facts and nomenclatures.

Right next to these repositories of systematized human knowledge beckoned piles of paperbacks with advice for writers. One alerted me to the virtues of Writing Down the Bones. In vain did I look for a companion piece offering help with the fleshing out. Nevertheless, I walked away with William F. Buckley Jr.’s The Right Word, puzzled that he, the quintessential word maven, didn’t name it Le Mot Juste.

As I made my way past other literary genres, I passed a lonely book hunter in quiet contemplation of the self-help table. I was tempted to ask him whether he needed help. Perhaps he was just resting his eyes after forever having to cock his head this way and that in order to decipher book spines with titles right side up and upside down.

By now it was time to take inventory of my shopping bags and agonize over what was worth keeping and what needed to be jettisoned. When first casting my net, I err on the side of too much, so I won’t have regrets later. But for reasons of limited shelf space at home, I had to get rid of some ballast and, with a heavy heart, repatriated a few books to their proper tables.

I still ended up with a full shopping bag and left the gym with my fingers feeling grubby — that telltale sign of leafing through books that have spent too much time in dusty attics or musty basements. It will take these additions to my library a while for that affliction to leach out. Then I will know that they, at last, are mine.

Peter Dreyer is a freelance writer and summer resident of Edgartown. The West Tisbury Library book sale begins today and runs through August 2 at the West Tisbury School. The hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.