Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Shopping | A Passion

I've been doing a lot of reading this month so I'm getting close to finishing the latest bookclub book - "A Passage to India" by E.M. Forster. I'll probably post a review some time this weekend.

In the interim, I thought I'd write a little note on some of my favour things about book shopping because I was just daydreaming of things I would like to be doing at this current moment. Along with the standard endorphins released during purchasing through the pleasure centre of the brain, here are some particular things I love about book shopping:

1. Quality of Books
I prefer to NOT buy new books. Initially I did this for cost considerations, but I also began to appreciate the fact that I was not hurting the environment. In addition, the quality of many older books is much better. Some books that have withstood the test of time are of such a quality that in today's cost-cutting world, no one would have taken the time/effort/expense to re-create them. Since I read mainly classic literature, there have been quite a few publisher's who have a strong feeling about creating a piece of art that will be enjoyed for years to come. Some of my favourites are "The Franklin Library", "The Easton Press", "The Folio Society", "The Modern Library" and "Everyman's Library (Knopf)." I'm told that "The Limited Editions Club" has some pretty nice things, but I'll never be able to afford them.

2. Thrill of the Hunt
I love the feeling I get when I go into a book store. I look around and there are endless surprises awaiting me in every corner. I never know what I'm going to find, and the excitement of the hunt is something I will never get by buying books online. Even if they are good deals, I don't feel the same if I haven't invested time looking for something.

3. Adventuring
I also love to walk around a city and come across a book store randomly. If I haven't been there before, chances are I'm either going to find NOTHING or a TON of things. The problem with finding a ton of things (other than the inevitable hit to the pocketbook) is that I may not be able to carry them all home. That being said, if I'm in a new city... I love adventuring and coming across book stores. I had a great time in Vancouver doing this - and I really had to be choosy with the books I brought home. My favourite was a 2 volume Franklin Library set of Homer ("The Iliad" and "The Odyssey") in beautiful green leather with a different colour patch on the spine where the title is.

4. Deals
I alluded to deals above - there is nothing I like more about shopping than finding something I LOVE that is also a great deal. When I find something truly unique (generally expensive), I want to run to the Internet to check out if the book is a good deal or not. No matter how nice a book looks, you don't want to pay $300 for something that is worth $100. The other way is okay.

I'm less likely to make a mistake if I go to a used book store that I know and trust the owner or can at least have done a couple dozen comparisons and can identify that the book prices are generally comparable to Abebooks [what I generally refer to as market price]. In some cases of rare finds in book stores I come across randomly, I've been prone to make a few mistakes.

5. Talking to the Owners / Workers
Book lovers and owners are an interesting breed. They know a lot about literature, and sometimes, how the world works in general. I love picking their brains and learning about how book selling works, interesting things they know about authors, or historic facts. The only problem is, a lot of these people have an abundance of time to chat (they also love to do it), so if you're in a time rush you may not want to strike up a conversation.

6. The Aesthetics of the Books
People sometimes view me as a book snob for this, but I just really love the look of books [especially on nice book shelves]. I could write tons on the organization methods of some people and book shelves, but I generally put items of the same publisher together. A Folio Society book is very different from a Franklin library, because the former books all have slipcases and the latter books are all made out of leather. This becomes an easy distinction on the shelves. I also try to group my first editions together, and I have separate shelves for authors with large works such as J.R.R. Tolkien. I also have another book case which I put "regular" books, and they're generally categorized by hardcover/softcover and sometimes by genre. In addition, the books that I have with a remainder mark (which I view as evil) are in their own section - a section of shame.

To get back to my original thought, I just love reading when I'm surrounded by a library. I don't know what it is, but it just makes me feel good.

7. Patient Friends
I love shopping with other people, only if they give me an appropriate amount of time at each store. In addition, it's great fun to talk about books you see on the shelves - how much you liked the novel, how evil a character is, how bad an author is, etc. Surrounding yourself with friends that are fellow book lovers is generally very enjoyable.

Well, that's about all about my book shopping. Tune in next time for my review on "A Passage to India."

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