Friday, November 10, 2006

Buying books will ruin you

Barry Campbell warns of the dangers of book buying. Addicts are warned to get a library card instead.

That works pretty well, except that, although I have an A+ in checking out books, I only rate a D- in returning them. Also, libraries only have books that everyone wants to read. They don't have room to keep the rest.

But those are the books that I like to read. And I don't know what I want until I find it on the shelf. Who would have dreamed that I would buy, read, and love Siegfried Sassoon's elegiac memoir of his youth, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man? Or a sweet little book about growing up in Ireland called Never No More, by Moira Laverty? Or Seven and a Half Cents, by Richard Bissell? Or the mysteries of Elizabeth Daly?

I like authors who write a lot of books. Nothing irritates me more than finding out that an author I really, really like has only written a few books, while a twit like Joyce Carol Oates turns out at least one a year. And when I really like an author I read everything he has ever written, insofar as I can get my hands on them. That's why Trollope is such a satisfactory find. He wrote lots and lots of books, all of them imbued with a certain civilized charm ony the British can master. And many of them are in libraries.

But about those libraries: for years I worked in libraries, and I generally had at least 50 library books at home at any one time. Since I got to buy the adult books, I got to read most everything new that I liked for free. And of course, I was fine-exempt. What a shock it was to emerge into the ordinary world, and pay fines of 10 cents a day! And on what people are fond of calling a "fixed income." It's fixed all right, and I would like to fix it at a higher level.

If you are like me, and you know what you want to read, you can generally find it online at abebooks.com or alibris.com. I find better deals at these two sites than I do at Amazon. A warning, though: the book may only cost a dollar, but shipping is inevitably $3.95.

Still a good deal. When you finish, donate them to the library book sale.

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