I have no room on my bookshelves anymore to be adding books to my collection. In fact, I probably have almost as many books hidden away on closet shelves as I have on the shelves in my study by now – and I have close to 900 on these shelves (most of them hardbacks or ARCs). And that’s not counting the 100…or 150…or 200 e-books that are hidden away in that great cloud in the sky which give me no pride of ownership whatsoever.
So why do I still look forward to browsing the shelves of used book stores in search of things I never even knew existed before I spot them there? (I suspect that if you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you the answer to that one.) Now I am trying to live by the “one book in – one book out rule” and failing miserably – even though it gives me pleasure to drop a load of books off at an assisted living facility or hospital. It’s just that the choices are getting to be more and more difficult every month.
Anyway, I’ve been to the local Half Price Books twice this week and walked away with four books, none of which appear to have ever been opened, much less read, and that means I need to slap four others in the giveaway box. (Those of you who have kept up with my horror at the Twitter personality exhibited by author Joyce Carol Oates will realize that this box contains a number of Oates volumes since I am in the process of ridding my home of over 100 of her books.)
The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives seems to have made hardly a blip since it was published in November 2009. I say that based on the fact that it has only 18 reviews on Amazon.com, a site on which even the shabbiest of self-published books can generate 50 or so “reviews.” This is a compilation of a bunch of the best contemporary crime fiction writers in the business revealing exactly how they came up with their most famous series lead character. I couldn’t resist this one because it includes some of my favorite characters: Jack Taylor (Ken Bruen), Hieronymus Bosh (Michael Connelly), Charlie Resnick (John Harvey), Spenser (Robert B. Parker), and John Rebus (Ian Rankin). And there are several other authors in the book whose series I have read in and out of for years.
Perhaps the biggest find this week was a pristine copy of Reporting Vietnam: Part Two published by the remarkable Library of America people. I’ve been putting together a collection of Library of America books for several years now (this being my 89th LOA book), but I guarantee you that I have never paid as little as $3.00 for one of their books before (they retail for $30-$35 on average). I snagged this one from the back corner of the store that usually features two or three shelves of “clearance books.” Half Price Books kindly includes the date on its price stickers that the books were placed on the shelves and I see that this one had been in the store for over three years. It’s a beautiful first edition copy printed in 1998, and I’m looking forward to dipping into it soon. It includes newspaper and magazine pieces by the likes of Peter Arnett, Sydney H. Schanberg, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Buckley, Doris Kearns, Stewart Alsop, Seymour Hersh, and James Michener. As a bonus, it includes in its entirety one of my favorite books to come out of this war, Michael Herr’s Dispatches. I’m still floored by my good luck on finding this one for three bucks.
Somehow or another (and I’m happy about it) there are still a few of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books that I haven’t read – and because Connelly’ books are published in such huge numbers it is still pretty easy to find nice hard copy editions of the ones I’ve skipped for six or seven bucks a pop. I did that with Lost Light, this week and have placed it at the bottom of my TBR stack for now…with no idea when it will finally surface again to be read. This one was first published in 2003, and features Harry working a cold case under contract to the LAPD after he’s officially retired from the department. And hey, the best part is that it’s a signed copy dedicated to some “Angela” out there in the world who decided to let Half Price books rip her off (she was lucky, really lucky to get a dollar for the book from these guys). Thanks, Angela. I’m happy you junked the book, and thanks, too, to Half Price books for not noticing that the book contains one of Connelly’s rather quirky looking signatures.
And then there’s Literary Houston, published by TCU Press in 2010 (this is the most expensive book I bought this week at all of $10). I’m always on the lookout for fiction or nonfiction books that feature Houston to some degree or another, but have been disappointed that they are harder to find than I’d like them to be despite the unusual history of what is now the fourth largest city in the U.S. It includes pieces by what the editor, David Theis, calls “passers-through” such as Norman Mailer, H.L. Mencken, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frederick Law Olmsted. But Houston has also sired a number of “important writers” who are also represented in the book: Donald Barthelme, Vassar Miller, and Rick Bass, among them. And then there are the writers who have spent a considerable amount of time in and around Houston: Larry McMurtry, Philip Lopate, Mary Gaitskill, Rosellen Brown, and Edward Hirsch – all are represented here. A quick glance through the Table of Contents also shows contributions from people like Walter Cronkite, Robert A. Caro, Stephen Harrigan, O. Henry, Max Apple, and more than a score of others. This looks like something I’ll be dipping into and out of for several years to come.
OK…now which four Joyce Carol Oates books are going to the assisted living facility? Hmmm…