Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Doing My Part

There is an interesting article at Alternet about Why Booksellers Are Going Belly Up. The author uses Cody's, a 50-year-old bookstore in Berkeley that closed last month as a example of what's going on. The store's demise, acknowledges the author, is not just because of those evil chain bookstores that everyone likes to blame. The issue is more complex and can be likened to "death by a thousand cuts." One thing that caught my eye was something Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, said:

Yes, only 50 percent of Americans buy at least one book a year.
That is one depressing statistic. What does a bookish person do when faced with something like this? Buy books of course! Conveniently, Barnes and Noble has all of their Barnes and Noble Classics on sale for 50% off. We went a little crazy. We bought 13 of them. I've never been one to collect the classics, I always figured if I wanted to read one it was pretty easy to get a copy. But I have changed my mind about that, obviously. I have discovered that as much as I enjoy a classic, it is a case of out of sight out of mind. If I have them on my shelves, I am more likely to read them. Same for my Bookman. I am sort of embarrassed to say that the classics spree was not enough to sate our book needs. My Bookman has left the book biz. He has his discount still through the end of the month. Must take advantage while we can! And we did. Between the two of us we bought, erm, 16 books. Several of them were bargain books and a couple were used books we couldn't say no to like Boswell's Life of Johnson. Never read it, have only been vaguely interested in it, but when it can be had for only $8 plus a discount, well, how can someone in a frenzy say no? Some of the books I am particularly excited about are the bio, James Tiptree, JR by Julie Phillips, The Helmet of Horror by Victor Pelevin and the latest in the Canongate myth series (it's about Theseus and the Minotaur), and Pride by Michael Eric Dyson the final book of the Seven Deadly Sins series (now I feel like I can start reading them since I have them all). New booksI'm also excited about Mystery, So Long, a poetry book by Stephen Dobyns. We found a couple books by John Crowley, The Translator and Lord Byron's Novel which imagines the novel Byron never wrote. There is also an annotated The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners. In preparation for diving into Nabokov one of these days, I grabbed The Annotated Lolita. In the bargain area we found Mark Dunn's Welcome to Higby. I loved his Ella Minnow Pea and enjoyed Ibid, so this one should by fun. Also in bargain we snagged a hardcover of Neal Stephenson's The Confusion. We have book one and three in hardcover and had an advanced reading copy of the second, now we have nice editions of them all. Maybe I will read them now! There are a few other books that are just my Bookman's. We left the store tired and oh so happy. If only 50% of Americans buy at least one book each year, we've done our part to help make up for the other 50%. Are you doing your part?