Bits and Bobs (the ‘say whaaat?’ edition)


I’m finished
No, don’t get excited, I am not giving up blogging. But I am finished, finally, with Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. They is much to enjoy about this epic tale of India told in an epic 1,471 pages. What’s my take on it? It really is a wonderful book, and for someone who wants a broad sweep of Indian historical fiction this is a good thing. But, like the amazing War and Peace, losing 500 pages would not have harmed this novel. I mainly cared about the story line of Lata finding a suitable boy to marry. After all that reading, I was NOT pleased with her outcome. Phooey.

I’ve Kindled
As most of you know, I have been avoiding e-books for a billion reasons. Well, in the past three weeks or so I have read four, yes four, books on Kindle for iPad. Now before some of you start jumping up and down, just know that I am still not a fan and don’t plan on making it a habit. What happened is this, as I strove to finish the final books of my Century of Books, I really became impatient. One night around midnight I decided I was in no mood for my choice for 1939 (Katherine Anne Porter’s incredibly short Pale Horse, Pale Rider) so I needed something else from that year. Minutes later I decided it would be my first Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. But what is a boy to do at midnight? Click, click, click, by 12:10 I was reading Agatha. Same thing happened with the three other titles I read on Kindle. Instant gratification.

And by the by, Kindle thinks that page 102 of 185 is 49%. It isn’t. It’s 55%. Are they counting words?

I’ve already changed my RIP list
I seem to love modifying lists as much as I like making them. After about 15 minutes with the Mulisch on my RIP VIII list I tossed it aside. Was reaaallly not floating my boat. So I need find a book to replace it. That shouldn’t be too hard because…

I caved to peer pressure (a bookstore story)
John is out of town this week and I had been feeling the need to root around in piles of used books. I thought of driving out into the wilds of Maryland to have a fossick at the three locations of Wonder Books, however, I balanced that with the fact that I really don’t need to be buying any books at the moment. But then the day dawned all grey and cool and it began to feel quite bookish. But still, I wasn’t going to go. And then Amanda posted the following on Facebook: “I tried to resist, but I cannot do it. I have to go to the used bookstore. I need old book smell and green Virago spines.”  Who could resist that? I couldn’t.

With this cover, I won’t be reading it in public.

So off I went. There are three locations of Wonder Books. Hagerstown, Frederick, and Gaithersburg. I decided to go to all three. I drove the 70 or so miles to the furthest (farthest?) one in H’town then work my way back toward DC. Wonderbooks is a place that essentially buys your books by the pound, except they don’t weigh them, they just take a look at your bag and say $3 cash or $5 trade. I was a little taken aback by this. Did they really not want to comb through my titles first to see what amazing things I was selling? And then I thought, who cares. Probably wouldn’t get much more if I did.

But then I went into the store and was reminded that their prices are really quite high despite that the condition of their stock isn’t exactly stellar and especially since they aren’t paying city rents, nor are they paying much of anything for their stock. In fact, I probably had 20 books in my bag that comes out to twenty-five cents per book. And that is on the trade price, it would be fifteen cents per book on the cash deal. So anyway I start to have a look around in their paperback section and was startled to see that all of their mass market paperbacks were $2.95 no matter what condition they were in. 

But when you find something you want, what can you do? I discovered later that the H’town store is my favorite of the three locations. It seems to be the biggest and it has stock that seemed to have a different mojo then the other two stores. They have tons and tons and tons of old mass paperbacks. Thankfully they break those down by Lit, General Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Sci-Fi, etc. In the Lit section it really feels like they must get a ton of old student-owned copies. Not only did they have about 50 copies of Howards End, but they had lots of old, very cool, editions of it. Some reminding me of my college days 20 years ago and many more 30 to 50 years older than that. But then again, I wasn’t in the market for Howards End. I have two copies already.

So what was I looking for? These days it is pretty easy to find whatever book I want. Even obscure ones can be had from an Internet seller as long as I am willing to pay. I decided to be very focused. I wanted to look for more non-Lucia Bensons, more DE Stevenson, and maybe a book or two that might fill in the gap on my RIP VIII list.

Very long story short: One mass market paperback non-Lucia Benson, a few old green Penguins, Dr. Jekyll, and Dracula to help fill in the empty spot on the RIP list, and best of all, I managed to come up with one mass paperback DE Stevenson that I don’t own. 

Compared to some other book-buying excursions this is a somewhat anemic result, but finding the one needle in the three-store haystack, the Stevenson, made the day a complete and total success. 

New episode of The Readers is available
Thanks to everyone’s kind comments about my debut as Simon’s co-host on The Readers podcast. I am having so much fun doing it. Simon keeps me giggling pretty much the entire time. Our newest episode is out in which we discuss what it means to be a discerning reader and what our reading habits are. If you don’t subscribe on iTunes you can always follow this link and stream it from the website.

14 thoughts on “Bits and Bobs (the ‘say whaaat?’ edition)

  1. travellinpenguin September 10, 2013 / 8:09 pm

    What large stores. I have never found an old Penguin book in USA. Am going to try again when I visit in November. Loved the book cover you posted though can see why you might not read it in public. haha


  2. Cath September 11, 2013 / 5:34 am

    I assume the non-Lucia Benson you found was not a volume of his ghost stories. You would have mentioned it I think and would be reading it for RIP. Love the look of the D.E. Stevenson!

    I tend to be slightly intimidated by bookstores like that… or do I mean overwhelmed? Probably. I'm usually with someone who doesn't want to hang around and I'm looking at all the shelves and thinking, 'I want to spend all day in here… what can I look at in 20 minutes!' LOL


  3. Susan in TX September 11, 2013 / 8:32 am

    Love the bookstore expedition! That is exactly what happens to me (usually when I “swear off book buying for x amount of time). Fortunately, I usually have a willing partner(s) in crime in at least one of the kids – we take off and drive across town and then work our way home from one Half-Price Books to another. (Their buy back policy doesn't pay much better than the one you described.)
    I don't make a list for RIP – just list them as I read them so I don't feel hemmed in. I WAS trying to read from the TBR (should not place handcuffs on my self – it always leads to rebellion!), but just now hit send to order Elizabeth Gaskell's Gothic Tales and another old gothic tale, The Castle of Otranto by Walpole that I read about somewhere.
    I'm considering doing the Kindle App on my Airbook so that I can get some of Susan Hill's shorter ghost stories without having to wait for them to ship across the ocean, thanks to you. Haven't quite got there yet, but I wouldn't have considered it before reading this post. :)
    I'm already typing to0 much, but must add that I really enjoyed the Readers this week.
    Happy Reading!


  4. Pigtown*Design September 11, 2013 / 9:13 am

    Have you been to the Book Think in Baltimore? All of the books are FREE! Next time you need a book fix at the weekend, come on up! *and call me first!


  5. StuckInABook September 11, 2013 / 5:46 pm

    More on the Christie, please! You've picked my favourite of hers to start.


  6. Shannon @ River City Reading September 11, 2013 / 6:04 pm

    Woah, I've never been to Wonder Books, but I think I might have to swing by during my National Book Fest trip.

    I've heard good things about Mckay Used Books in Manassas, too, but I haven't made my way up there yet.

    My favorite used store in VA is still Daedalus in Charlottesville. It's overflowing, but there are just oodles of GOOD, well priced books.


  7. James Chester September 11, 2013 / 11:49 pm

    I've traveled pretty far for bookstores myself, even all the way to Portland just to visit Powell's books. But I haven't sold any to a used bookstore in decades. They just don't pay enough to over-rule the good feeling I get when I donate to my local friends of the library.


  8. Thomas at My Porch September 12, 2013 / 3:20 pm

    Pam: Penguin hunting in the US would be very hit or miss. In particular I think you are much less likely find the originals, and even less likely to find the harder to find originals that you don't already own.

    Cath: You are so right about being overwhelmed. That is why I chose to do this on a day when John was out of town and may time was completely my own.

    Susan: Just think, all of the books I bought on Monday are now a part of my TBR. So I can stick to reading from my TBR. Ha! How's that for logic?

    Megan: How are they all free? That is nuts. I must look into it.

    Simon: We will chat about her in October :)

    Shannon: Thanks for the tip on Manassas. I need to start checking out options in VA. Years ago there was a great, huge, used bookstore in Culpeper or somewhere like that. It had tons of old things that I don't think get much notice these days (low to middle brow stuff from the 30s-60s). I bought many the day I was there, but my tastes weren't quite as old fashioned as they are now. I can only imagine what treasures I passed by. And now it doesn't exist. I wonder what they did with their stock.

    James: I think agree with you on donating vs. selling. I mainly took them along because I had a big stack and it seemed like I could kill two birds with one stone. Next time, the library for sure.


  9. Kristi in the Western Reserve September 12, 2013 / 3:53 pm

    I hated that those ACE paperbacks had the phrase “A D.E. Stevenson Romance” on the covers. There usually is romance in her books but there is so much much more! I have some of her books which are audible on my kindle, though I'm not quite sure how I achieved that.


  10. joan.kyler September 13, 2013 / 8:35 am

    I wanted to tell you how much I'm enjoying you and Simon on The Readers. You complement each other well.

    I have two non-Lucia Bensons: an old hardback biography of Charlotte Bronte and a fat paperback of his ghost stories. Good luck with your search.


  11. leavesandpages September 13, 2013 / 1:23 pm

    Loved your little aside on the DE Stevenson book – I feel much the same, and have had some serious explaining to do when my family raised supercilious eyebrows at my own gleefully acquired DES paperbacks. Those covers…!

    I recently came across an ancient copy of EF Benson's first novel, 'Dodo: A Detail of the Day', inscribed with owner's name (unreadable signature) and '1899' on the front flyleaf. So yellowed and brittle I've been putting off reading it, but lovely to know I have it waiting for that perfect time.

    Great blog, by the way. I found you through a Margery Sharp rabbit trail I was following. :-)


  12. Thomas at My Porch September 13, 2013 / 5:35 pm

    Kristi: Those covers turn off the people who like Stevenson and Stevenson probably turns off the readers who like the covers.

    Joan: I am so glad you are enjoying the Readers. I know I am.

    Kristi: I think Secrets Lives is the one I just found.

    Leaves and Pages: Welcome! I love hearing how people find my blog, so thank you for sharing that. Wow, where does one find such a rare book as Benson's first novel.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.