I don\’t do a post like this very often now, because over the years I have gotten much more strict with myself about buying books. The reason is obvious (and probably familiar to you, dear readers)- I accumulate books far faster than I can read them, and they pile up like mad. But every now and then I take a chance.
Recently I came home from my first-ever trip to Europe (amazing!) and one of the first things I saw when stepping out of the train station in London was this:
a floating bookstore! I so much wanted to go in there, but we only walked by this location at night, when it was closed. I\’m guessing that during the day it was traveling up and down the river plying its wares. But I was tickled just to have seen it.
We did, however, stop in a used bookshop called Shakespeare and Sons when in Prague, where I bought three books. I was delighted to find a bookstore with mostly English stock in the middle of Prague, and a bit dismayed at the prices, which made me very choosy. They were each marked at 200 or 300 koruna, which amounts to ten or fourteen US dollars apiece, and that\’s a lot more than I\’m used to paying for used books. On the flip side, I also bought a pair of shoes for the equivalent of $15, that would have cost twice as much here at home. So… in the Czech Repulic books are valued more, and shoes less? Hm…. I kind of like that, even if it restricts my purchases!
Well, about the books. The Orwell was a given; I\’ve been gradually replacing my collection of Orwell\’s works (they went with my ex when we separated) and had read this one before. The other two were a chance I took, and it turned out I liked them both immensely. I read Animals on the journey home (several hours\’ wait when a plane delayed) and Noah\’s Garden immediately on arriving home- another unusual thing for me- normally recently-acquired books wait a long time on the shelf before I actually read them.
So that was a few weeks ago. Just the day before yesterday I did a bit of secondhand shopping. Drove up to a little rural community north of us called Lucketts, where I like to poke around in this huge antique store on the main corner. I rarely find anything I really feel like spending money on, but I made a discovery this time. This shop tends to use books as decorative objects; they\’re arranged into displays holding up knick-knacks and the like, often I can\’t even read the spines. But after going through several rooms I happened on a stack of books about horsemanship (most too technical for me) from which I picked out a collection of short stories about sports. It seems to feature a lot of stories about equestrian sports, fishing, and hunting with dogs which I might like. (I\’m reading a book of fly fishing stories right now, it\’s quite fun).
The real prize was an 1860 edition of Mr. Sponge\’s Sporting Tour. For some reason I felt like I\’d heard of this book before, and pounced on it. And it was only four dollars! It puzzled me to no end that neither the title page, publication information, dedication or forward actually named the author. (There don\’t seem to be any pages missing that would have held this info) It stated that this was the same author as other works (which must have been famed in his time) but never actually gave a name. I had to look it up online to discover that this book was written by Robert Surtees, and it\’s about a guy who goes around the countryside pulling scams in hunting clubs (as far as I can tell). It has the most amazing illustrations and I spent a half hour just turning all the pages to look at them. Wood and steel engravings by John Leech, awesome linework and excellent characterization with just a few strokes. I can\’t wait to read this.
The last book, on the top, I found at a thrift store on the way home. I don\’t look for books there very often anymore, because where they used to be only fifty cents to a dollar, now the hardcovers go for two or three dollars and that\’s a bit much for me when I can usually find the same books at the library for free, until I fall in love with them. In fact, I passed up a copy of Racing in the Rain and Pearl S. Buck\’s Peony for that very reason- felt sure I\’d find them in the library system. The one about the bookseller looked too interesting to leave behind, though.
And then today the topper was the local library\’s annual book sale. The pickings were slim, and their prices, like those in the thrift store, have gone up in recent years. It used to be on the final day of the sale you could fill a box or bag for five bucks, but this time they were asking the initial price even though unsold books were getting packed up around me to go to charities and the like. I was a bit disappointed at that, but understand that the library needs its funds more than ever so I didn\’t mind paying more, to support them in my own small way. I came home with this pile:
I started reading Wildflower on the way home, and it looks real good- about a woman who lived in Africa, married to a wildlife filmmaker and very involved in conservation efforts with the local wildlife herself. The book is based on tons of journals and letters that were found after her untimely death (she was murdered, and the author tried to figure out why).
Peony– the very book I passed up at the thrift shop! I never read any Pearl S. Buck but have always meant to.
Marley: A Dog Like No Other– Well, I did enjoy the intial Marley book, but after thumbing through this one I\’m suspicious if it has much new material. Didn\’t the first book end with the dog getting old and dying? Is he finding more stories to tell that weren\’t included in the first book? I\’m a sucker for animal stories, so I\’ll read it and find out.
Elephant Keeper– Set in the 18th century, about a young man who is keeper to two elephants privately owned by a rich family. That\’s all I know, but it was enough to whet my curiosity.
People of the Sea and People of the Nightland– some novels about prehistoric people. This could be good, or not, I have no idea yet. Some prehistoric novels I really enjoy.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes– I might have made an error here. I believe I already have a volume of Sherlock Holmes stories, but not sure if it includes the Holmes novels (as this one does) or just short stories. I haven\’t looked yet to see if this is a duplicate. Won\’t be the first time that\’s happened!
World of Birds– beautifully illustrated encyclopedia on birds and their behavior. Sometimes I find books with nice illustrations on birds more attractive than those full of photographs, and this one really caught my eye.
The real treasure in this pile is Relentless Enemies, a book of stunning photographs that chronicles the constant friction between lion prides and cape buffalo in Botswana. I never ever expected to find a book like this at a library sale. And it was only one dollar!
The best way ever to spend a birthday: book hunting!