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Book Buying

Librarians, you can be satisfied that I care enough about what you think that I felt guilty as I went around to the local used bookstores today. But now, I must insist that my thoughts of you stop judging me. When I buy books, I may not be supporting my local library, but I am supporting local small businesses, and that is in its own way is good. Just as importantly, I support the local bookstores’ cats, such as the one at Murphy Brookfield who forced me to pick her up and put her on my shoulder. For fifteen minutes I had to listen to her purr! I should charge for such customer service, and in the future I may, but today I did not. I bought books instead. I went because I needed to find a different edition of Dracula from the one already had. (The reason a new edition was necessary will soon be apparent.) I did find one. I also got a copy of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go as well as The Wings of the Dove, The Awkward Age, The Princess Cassamassima, and Daisy Miller. If having The Golden Bowl on the sidebar didn’t make it apparent, I’m taking it upon myself to read most all of James’s novels. Assuming I actually finish TGB, these will be enough to keep me occupied for a while, anyway.



You should never, ever feel the slightest pang of guilt for supporting any of your local bookstores (especially the used/rare ones). Where do you think I do a lot of my collection development work?

I see independent bookstores and libraries as first cousins in creating literary third places. Believe it or not, I don’t even hold too much of a grudge against B&N’s and Borders, either. And just like everyone else, I, too, have spent my share of bucks at Amazon and Abebooks. All of these places have their respective slice of presenting the magic of the printed word to a public that needs it.

On the other hand, my obsessive-compulsive personality quirk of only buying books for other people (gifts) isn’t perhaps healthy. When I buy a book, nowadays it’s almost always with a Pepp credit card, and it’s immediately placed on hold for me a few steps away from my office.

I am often conflicted about buying books for other people. On the one hand, I love to do it. Books mean a lot to me, and I want them to mean a lot to other people too. On the other hand, I know they don’t. I doubt, for example, my dad reads B.V.‘s book, which I gave him for Xmas. Simply put, he’s not a reader. A few things will grab him, but he’s too much a misanthrope to care enough what other people think to want to take the time to read them. It seems to me the vast majority of books are given either wishfully, as in, “I wish that you would read this book I liked,” or out of obligation, in the sense that “Reading books is supposed to be good; I will give them as a way to promote their reading.” The number of books given during any given year I think far outpaces the number of actual readers there are.

But did you go to the Shelter House booksale at Trinity, also held yesterday? According to my mother, they made quite a bit of money, had a couple bookdealers say it’s one of the ten best booksales they go to, and had several people say it’s the best ecumenical thing they’ve ever attended or participated in in IC.

I bought many more books when I was in grad school in Iowa and they were all tax-deductible—and when I lived around more bookstores, both used and new.

This weekend I’ve been packing (well, mostly I’ve been thinking about packing, and then going cross country skiing instead) for my forthcoming move from my current place to a house in town. Moving always makes me rue the number of books I own, but it never seems to make me get rid of any of them.

I’d agree that books as gifts more often go unread than not. That being the case, I wish people would spend more money giving poetry (by living poets, if purchased new) and less giving copies of the NYT bestseller list. Not to accuse any of the present company of such behavior, of course. Just an idle insomniac thought.

No! I didn’t hear about it. WSUI announced the Coralville library was havng its annual sale. I saw nary a word about it in the Press-Citizen. I really need to get onto Trinity’s e-mail list, if they have one, so I can keep track of these things. (MOre props to Trinity, too: From what I can tell, it’s about the most ecumenical church in town.)

Anyway, it’s true that I don’t give poetry.

Oh, too bad—and I’m sorry I didn’t think to mention it earlier. I think they bought (small) ads in most of the papers, but I could be wrong about that. Trinity does have an (occasional—unless traffic has gone up significantly since 2003) e-mail list—I can pass yours on to my mom if you’d like to be added. The booksale is always in February, usually the 3rd Saturday, I think.

On the occasion of your move, L, I like your water story. It inspires in me more reply, and more reply may be forthcoming forthcoming, but for now—for you folks who read the comments, it’s good and you should read it.