All of those garbage bags had a few opening books and a smattering of middlegame and endgame books, but almost all were best game collections and tournament books because those were the books I enjoyed the most.
Google books is an amazing resource for old chess books. In addition to tournament books, you can find match books. Another source of old chess books is a site that I am sure many people are not familiar with, Hathi Digital Library.
Most all of the books are out of copyright and are in descriptive notion which is something many players shy away from. But, one should not avoid books in descriptive notation because they can be a treasure trove of information and just good reading. Descriptive notation is not hard to learn...I did it as a ten year old, so how hard can it be?
Below is a list of some of the great tournament books that are available in English from Google books and Hathi Trust Digital Library. Most of tournaments and games are available on Chessgames.com, but the books give a detailed account. You can download the games from Chessgames.com and play over them with an engine with the books being a nice supplement.
Knockout. Adolf Anderssen, Elijah Williams, Marmaduke Wyvil, Jozsef Szen, Howard Staunton etc.
First American Congress 1857
Morphy dominated the event, sweeping each of his opponents until Paulsen in the final. Dropping one game in the final match, Morphy finished the tournament with an astounding 14 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss. His victory cemented him as one of the best players in the world and prompted his journey to Europe.
Anderssen, Paulsen and Owen. 13 players
Neumann, Steinitz, MacDonnell, De Vere, Blackburne etc.
Second American Congress 1871
Held at the Kennard House in Cleveland, Ohio. Won by George H. MacKenzie. Frederick H. Elder, Henry Hosmer, Max Judd etc.
Fourth American Congress 1876
Held during the World's Fair held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Won by James Mason ahead of Max Judd and Henry Bird, et al.
Fifth American Congress 1880
A double round 10-player event held at the Manhattan Chess Club in New York City. George MacKenzie and James Grundy tied for first and MacKenzie won the playoff.
A double round 13-player event. Won by Zukertort ahead of Steinitz, Blackburne, Chigorin and MacKenzie...
Ohio State Championship 1887
This, the first Ohio Championship, was won by George W. Smith ahead of Edgar Bettmann and E.D. Payne. Of the 32 games played, only three were drawn.
17 players. Won by Gunsberg ahead of MacKenzie, von Bardeleben, Mason, Burn, Blackburne etc.
Pillsbury' great win ahead of all the best in the world at the time.
St. Petersburg 1895
Four of the best players in the world (Lasker, Steinitz, Pillsbury and Chigorin) played each other 6 times. Incredible games. Was this the tournament where Pillsbury caught syphilis from a St. Petersburg prostitute?
Monte Carlo 1903
14 players, double round. Tarrasch ahead of Maroczy and Pillsbury.
Cambridge Springs 1904
The start of Frank Marshall's international career.
St. Petersburg 1909
A 20-player event in memory of Chigorin. Rubinstein and Lasker tied for first ahead of Spielmann and Duras (tied).
St. Petersburg 1914
Featured the joint winners of the 1914 All Russian Championship and players who had won at least one major tournament. There were the veterans Blackburne and Gunsberg, established masters such as Tarrasch, Bernstein, Janowski, Nimzowitsch, Alekhine and Marshall as well as the World Champion Lasker and his two most prominent rivals, Rubinstein and Capablanca. The top five played an additional tournament and were awarded the title Grandmaster by the Czar. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch and Marshall.
Rice Memorial 1916
Capablanca ahead of Janowsky and Chajes. 14 players.
New York 1918
Originally planned as an 8-player double round robin tournament. Norman T. Whitaker began a game a day before Round 1, became ill and withdrew from the event, leaving it as a 7-player field. Won by Capablanca ahead of Kostic, Marshall, Chajes, Janowsky, Roy T. Black and John Morrison (Canadian champion).