Today I went to several used bookstores, $20 in hand, to buy books for a Budget Bookstack. (This in response to Sulz, who commented that it all sounded great, but awfully expensive.)
I’m here to confess that she was sort of right, except for different reasons. The budget bookstack wasn’t so terribly expensive (it was, in fact $22, because I couldn’t resist Absalom, Absalom, at $5). The thing is, I was swept away by all those books, kind of the way you might feel at the pound, except at a used bookstore you can actually bring 40 books home, whereas if you brought forty puppies home you’d get in a lot of trouble. So yes, I’ll just tell you right now that I ended up spending $164 or some number like that, and came home with about 40 books.
A lot of people are getting bookstacks this year, is all I can say about that. Well, it’s not all, because I could also say in my defense that I recently got a raise, the first in about five years, and some of it was retroactive, and it seemed to me that this money should be pumped right back into independent bookstores, like Book Zoo, and worthy causes like the San Francisco Public Library Book Bay, both of which were the beneficiaries of my
The budget bookstack, the one that cost only $22, contains six books. It’s for my little brother Mike, who’s eight years younger than I. Mike lives in Seattle, and he is far, far cooler than I am.
How cool, you ask? Well, he’s a computer whiz (like my sister Sue and my brother Ed) and his first big job was at Microsoft, a job that didn’t last too long because he’s a little bit of an anarchist and I’m guessing he just couldn’t resist saying what he thought about things. Whether he quit or was fired, I don’t know — but I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning this short-lived stint at Microsoft. After all, it’s sort of a badge of honor to try Microsoft’s patience, considering how much they have tried ours. After that, he ended up at Amazon in its early days and although he worked way too hard, at least there was some reward for that. Now he works at a very cool sounding startup, and I think he might be working way too hard there. Of my three brothers, he’s the one who never writes in to set the record straight. That’s because he’s working too hard.
Mike’s a quirky, smart, interesting, kind, very funny guy, and I don’t think he has enough time to choose books or read them. This is what I’m sending him:
- Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 ($5) It was very hard for me not to keep this for myself or to spend the evening reading it rather than wrapping it. It’s all about the power of books, and Ray Bradbury’s such a fine writer.
- Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (free, my copy) I liked this very much. There was one section where the heroes ended up in the cold, cold north that seemed odd and out of place and could have been edited, but it’s still a very good book. And it’s good for vocabulary building. That’s because Michael Chabon has never met a weird, unusual, interesting word that he hasn’t wanted to take home and tuck into a sentence. If little-used words were puppies, Chabon would be in a lot more trouble than I would be if used books were puppies. After all, where’s he going to put 6,000 or so puppies?
- Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom. [$5] This was one of the most powerful books I read when I was in college. It’s less confusing than other Faulkner novels, has more of a story-line, and is achingly beautiful in places. Everyone should read this novel.
- Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From [$5] This is a substantial collection of clean, bracing short stories. I read this last year, and it’s one of the few books I’ve held on to from my year’s reading, which is why I parted with $5 for another copy of it. Even if you don’t want to write like Carver (whose style is so distinct that he’s easily copied/parodied), you should read him to see how you can do a lot without saying very much.
- Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely [$4] What fun to get to read Chandler in the winter. (Farewell My Lovely was missing when I took the picture of the books. A boy had grabbed it and was well into it before I could recover it.)
- Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections [$3] I read this before Franzen made a bit of an idiot out of himself. I liked this novel — and would have liked it even if he hadn’t been such an idiot. I don’t know why anyone was surprised that he’d rebuff the most powerful woman in America by saying that he’d rather his book not be read by tons and tons of people. After all, if the book’s even the least bit autobiographical, it’s pretty certain that he comes from a long line of people who don’t function all that well socially. Also, the price had been reduced from $6 to $3. I wondered if that was because of the Oprah thing or if they had so many copies of it at Book Zoo that they could afford to let it go for so little. No matter, it was too good a deal to pass up.
Yes, I’ve noticed there’s not a woman among these books. In fact, half of them are by guys named Ray. I’m not worried about it. Mike’s an enlightened person, and anyway, the last bookstack I sent him (when I was in graduate school and writing a master’s thesis on coming of age stories written by wonderful African American women like June Jordan and Paule Marshall), was full of great women writers, among them Zora Neale Hurston and Virginia Woolf.
Next up? My brother-in-law Randy who really, really, really hates Republicans.