Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Literary Blind Dates

Used Books at the Loussac LibraryYou know what my favorite thing about our local library is? The discard bin. Whenever they have books no longer fit for circulation or if someone brings in books to donate and the library can't use them they set them out for people to pick through.

The first thing I do when I walk through the door is to check and see if any new books have been set out and if they have it's "kids go look for your own books, Mom's busy rummaging in the bins like a bag lady." (a literary bag lady that is).

I have a thing for used books. Make that used hardback books, they often have inscriptions in the covers and notes in the margins that connect me to someone I've never seen before. I especially love the old 1930s historical fiction or romance and if I see any book that looks like it might fit the genre I snatch it up. It becomes a mini treasure hunt, looking through to see if there's anything good tossed out by accident among the Jackie Collins and Thomas Wolfe (how many copies of Bonfire of the Vanities are out there? They can't seem to ever get rid of them).

Almost always the books I find are missing their dust jackets so I have nothing but a title and author to go on. Sometimes I'll Google the book once I'm home to see if there's information on what it's about but usually they're out of print so there's very little information so I'll start into it wondering if I've just met my new best friend or if it'll be a dud. Makes for quite a bit of excitement in my reading experience--really the literary equivalent of a blind date--and I love it.

I found The House of Tavelinck which was by a well-known Dutch author that no one on this side of the Atlantic has heard of but which was 700 pages of French Revolution and dissolute Dutch aristocrats which I couldn't put down. I found The Sheltered Life by Ellen Glasgow and The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith which were a little dry but I saw them through and The Red Pony by Steinbeck which was six short stories one of which was about this wildly creepy snake lady that had me going right to the end.

There was Idylls of the King by Tennyson, my first attempt at Arthurian legend, then there was Red Harvest, one of three Dashielle Hammett novels combined in one volume that was so violent, so bloody, so ridiculous that it made the Sopranos look like the Mouseketeers. I always finish a book, to leave it unfinished seems tantamount to breaking a promise, but this one was beyond even my endurance.

You never know what you're going to get. I found Esther Forbes' The Running of the Tide which told the story of two families during New England's whaling days and loved it. Why hasn't anyone heard of this gem? She won a Pulitzer for her book on Paul Revere and what school child hasn't heard of her novel Johnny Tremain? But I never would have read this book if I hadn't come on it by accident.

And now sitting on my shelf waiting for me is Thomas Costain's High Towers a historical romance about Montreal, William Makepeace Thakeray's Barry Lyndon, Alfred Hitchcock Presents My Favorites in Suspense (a compilation of short stories, many of which he based movies on such as "The Birds" by Daphne DuMaurier) and Anya Seton's Avalon, a historical adventure set in ancient Scandinavia among the likes of Eric the Red. I can't wait!

Now all I need is more time to read.

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This was submitted to this week's Woman to Woman segment at My Many Colored Days the theme was literature and reading.Woman to Woman
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Congratulations to LeeAnn of Grawn, Michigan for winning the collection of organizing bags from The Lazy Organizer.

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30 comments:

Gloria said...

*point to Michelle* See, boy, if you don't behave the scary literary bag lady will eat you up!

Literary bag lady indeed. Haha.

Though I get your sentiment. I prefer scouring second hand book store than buying new books. Even in Amazon I try to find used books. I like the aged pages, the surprised scribbles and annotations you find in between pages...

I think it adds life and character to a book. :)

Robin said...

Ooh, what fun! This is exactly how I feel about the bins of not good enough for the used book store used (English!) books that sit in bins outside, $1-2 each (an incredibly low price here for English books).

Mercy's Maid said...

I know what you mean about loving used books and all of the scribbles inside.

I think that's why I enjoy Bookcrossing so much--getting to see where a book has been, who has read it, and whether or not they liked it. That's just fun to me.

Angela said...

Thanks for sharing your book reviews and finds with us today. I love to buy used books as well. It is amazing to find other's handwriting in the books. I agree with Gloria, it does add life and charater to a book.

It is nice to have you in our woman to woman book reviews.

Have a wonderful day filled with love and laughter!

Angela

Meredith said...

What fun! Wish our library had a discard bin.

I, too, love the novels of the 1900-1940 period. What always amazes me is the complex language and higher reading level compared to mass market novels of today. The difference is even more noticeable in children's books of that period.

Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet said...

I love old books, too. Our library does the same thing, but I suspect all the really good ones were snapped up long ago.
If you enjoyed the Tennyson, may I recommend Marion Zimmer Bradley's trilogy. "Mists of Avalon" was published first, but is actually the last of the trilogy. The first two are "The Forest House" and "Lady of Avalon." She tells the Arthurian story from the women's perspective. T. H. White's "The Once and Future King" is more traditional, but a lot easier than wading through "Le Morte d'Arthur." In the interest of full disclosure, I did my Master's thesis on Merlin, so I've read a good deal of Arthurian material, and I may be just a bit biased. :)

Lei said...

I'm jealous of your ALdred Hitchcock find! How fun... our budding littel library doesn't have many yard sales just yet... but I too am drawn to old battered books. My uncle has given me several over the years and I cherish them!

Thanks for participating Muchelle... I have been so incommunicado lately, so I really appreciate you keeping in touch.

*smiles*

Lei said...

sheesh - could there be more typos?

Tigersue said...

I like looking for used books too. Still I also love the feel of a new book in my hand. Thanks for such an interesting post on this topic. I look through any book bin, hoping for a great find.

Daisy said...

Ah...more time to read. That's the challenge.

Simply Stork said...

oh my word...I thought I was the only one who did that...I just love the thought of getting a book that I don't have to turn back in...I love everything about the old books...they are already warn in and everything...I am also drawn to the children's books bin so I can add to our library...
~simply stork~

Marie said...

I love it when I get a library book with papers forgotten in them. People seem to do this a lot, and they often use papers they have written on. Sometimes school notes, sometimes more interesting things. I've found love letters and journal entries and such. It gives me a feeling of kinship with the previous readers.

My favorite things about older books are the inscriptions in the front cover, and all the semi-colons. I find semi-colons very useful, I wish they weren't so unfashionable as they are now.

pussreboots said...

I also love the library discards for the old hardbacks. Now through BookCrossing I have a friend who is a librarian and she mails me boxes of these books when she can't find homes for them locally.

Cocoa said...

You are so lucky! Our library doesn't do that, at least not that I know of. I love trying to find other books written by famous authors such as the treasure you found with Esther Forbes. If they've written one good book chances are they've written more right? The book I reviewed, Just David, was written by the same author who wrote Pollyanna.

J Fife said...

Books, books, books! I love books. Is it weird that this post is thrilling for me? To find the time to read - that is the trick.

Dedee said...

Ditto the comment before. I got all excited in your finds. In fact, I want to go and find a few and read them!

Pieces of Me said...

This post reminds me so much of the life prior to pre-Internet days when reading was not merely an escapade; it was a real cultural way of life. *sigh*

I love when people describe rendevous like this. I remember finding the most delectable book items - not only cover based, but real true literary gems. Fortunately for me, the Squirrel Hill library has a very very cheap browse book items and as soon as I send my book proposal out, that's where I'll make my next move. I'll get down on my hands and knees and find a title to whet my appetite.

btw - offpost thing: my parents just came back from a cruise to Alaska. They said it was the most beautiful place on earth..

Thanks for the lovely post!
-Dorit

ally said...

Our local libraries have once per year sales of all their used books. They are very organized events-- no bins, lots of tables with signs on them.

My closest equivalent to your bins is the racks of books outside the door of Half Price Books. That's where I find deals like yours-- slightly used and unique.

Regardless of the source there is nothing like a book "treasure" to make me feel like a literary "winner."

Zoe said...

Wow! What great finds! I need to check out our library for discarded books. There is a sense of pride to a book that is well read! Thanks for all of the information too!

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

That is a fabulous post! Being a bookworm myself, I understand your addiction. What is it about words on paper bound into a book?

Lisa said...

Love your blogging tips and tricks. And its really cool that you go on a hunt for certain literature. I do too! :-)

Linda said...

I use to keep books but ran out of space. Now I use the library for most of my books. I donated most of my books to the library.

Morning Glory said...

What a great thing to have a discard bin at the library! Thanks for joining in on this today.

Theresa Bakker said...

Great post. I'll think of you next time I browse through our local discarded books bin. Luckily, no other literary bag ladies hang out there. I've got the whole thing to myself.

Mary Alice said...

I have a confession - I was such a studious geeky bookworm that I volunteered at the library twice a week as a TEENAGER, just so I could get first dibs on the new titles and discover all the books as I shelved them.

If you haven't already read them, most all of Steinbeck's books are fabulous...I especially enjoyed Tortilla Flats.

Loralee Choate said...

I love old books...the lingo, description of daily life and the like totally intrigue me!

If ANYONE can find time to juggle their schedule to fit in reading it is you! I have faith.

Annie said...

Love our discard bin, too, but we have a donation jar. It's totally worth it to donate a dollar or two for some great books. My best find was a fundraiser with a box of discarded books for $2.00. I weeded through them ruthlessly, but still came away with a dozen must haves.

Great topic and post.

allrileyedup said...

I'm amazed that your library has no use for some of these books!

In Sedona, Arizona, there is a used bookstore that keeps a card catalog filled with all the random notes they come across in their used books. You never know what love letter, gossipy high school note, or grocery list you might come across.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

I'm salivating (maybe I shouldn't admit that). What a lovely find. I hope you get the time to read them all.