Book Finds!

The main branch of my city library is huge. It has several floors of library books, a cafe on the bottom floor and theaters for plays and films. It also has a stellar used book department with clean books in great shape in all the various categories. But its claim to fame, in my opinion, is the ‘Vintage Books’ section. Donated mostly from estate sales, there are amazing finds here. There might be a first edition of something, but mainly they are just old books or classics in hardcover or well-known books in their time, 1900-1950, that I have heard of but never read.

Yesterday, I had an exceptionally fruitful excursion that cost me only $5.75!

 

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The Year of Magical Thinking
, Joan Didion
I have read very little by Didion, but this title always intrigued me: struggling through grief and heartbreak after the deaths of a husband and daughter.

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
I was so happy to find a good copy of this. Molly Guptill Manning wrote about this book in her excellent, When Books Went to War. One of the ways publishers supported the war effort was to publish classic books in thin, small editions that could fit in a back pocket. Soldiers wrote to Betty Smith saying this book made them think of their hometowns.

The Paris Sketch Book, William Thackeray
Holy cow, folks…complete with illustrations by the author. I would love to know about the person in whose collection this was.

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How to Astonish the French–An English Family in the Tuileries.


Summer
, Edith Wharton
An important work of Wharton’s; it is an honest look at a young woman’s sexual awakening.

 

The Seven Story Mountain, Thomas Merton
One of my reading interests is religion and spirituality. I especially enjoy reading books about spiritual journeys and faith struggles. Regardless of the particular religion or spiritual path, I can relate and feel kinship.

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harold Bloom, Ed.
Now that I have read several major works by Hawthorne, I was interested in this critical analysis of his work.

 

The Bostonians, Henry James
Oh, this reminds me of college literary courses! And it’s been that long since I read it. It was published in magazine installments before it came out in book form a few years before Edward Bellamy’s, Looking Backward (set in Boston), which I just reviewed, so the title caught my eye.

 

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmuska Orczy
Confession: I am a product of Saturday morning Looney Tunes and like many kids of that generation, my first exposure to classic literature and classical music was from those cartoons (and Ed Sullivan, but that is a post for another day)! Elmer Fudd is forever seared in my mind as he sings The Ride of the Valkyries and I can still see Daffy Duck sword fighting as The Scarlet Pumpernickel. Alas, it is time I read the actual classic.

 

Colonial Folkways, Charles M. Andrews
This slim volume was written in 1919 and describes daily life in colonial America. The subject interests me and I enjoy seeing how historians through the decades view their subject.

 

The Telltale Heart and other Writings, Edgar Allan Poe
I don’t have any works by Poe at the moment and wanted something for any ‘Scary October’ readathons.

 

The Winter of our Discontent, John Steinbeck
If I say I have never read a Steinbeck, can I still say I am a reader?; that I love old books? And yes, I have yet to read The Grapes of Wrath. I think I need a ‘California readathon’ 🙂

 

My sister is delivering to me a new bookcase this weekend. When she first offered it I was sure there would be a lot of empty space…

The Bookman’s Tale, Charlie Lovett (2013)

My Edition:Bookmanstale.jpeg
Title: The Bookman’s Tale
Author: Charlie Lovett
Publisher: Penguin Books
Device: Paper book
Year: 2013
Pages: 369
For a plot summary

 

When I read a book I want to be affected in some way, to think differently, maybe to investigate a part of the story that captivated me. At the very least, I want something to have shifted.

Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale, satisfied all of the above, with intriguing subject matter and his ability to tell a grand, complicated story.

This is a book about books and those who care about and conserve old ones and the sometimes dirty and dangerous world of antiquarian book selling; it details the practice of historical document forgery; the provenance, over centuries, of one particular book that concerns whether Shakespeare did or didn’t (write his own plays); there is one murder and almost three; two love stories and the beginning of another; there is a centuries old family feud; and a main character with social anxiety disorder, who creates a fruitful life anyway. Throw in intrigue, blackmail and people dying before their time, this is a book I could not put down.

How did this book affect my world? Where do I start? With the pros and cons of the legitimacy of Shakespeare as the writer of his plays? Learning to forge historical documents? Or perhaps a trip to an antiquarian bookshop in hopes of finding a mysterious picture stuck inside a book? (Although, that did happen to me, sort of) And what about rare book conservation and restoration? Should I learn how to do it? What a noble vocation!

The idea of provenance strikes me as well: imagine coming across a centuries old book with a list of the owners marked inside the cover, who just happen to be well-known historical figures?

This is the kind of book I didn’t want to end and rationed pages to slow down the inevitable…What a way to spend the weekend!

 

Old Books….

I’ll let you define “old book” for yourself. For me, it is anything before the 1950s.

I am not sure why I am drawn to old books, although I do have a historical sensibility about things in general. When I am interested in something I go back to the source, the foundation, the original. I am often surprised by its relevance. The New Age, the Modern Age is really the Old Age gussied up with contemporary lingo and sometimes we don’t even know the idea is not new.

I read classic literature almost like primary source documents. I am pulled into its time and sensibility, the social and political atmosphere, its cultural context, even its gastronomic display. I’ve been reading like this since I can remember. My surroundings fade and I fall through the rabbit hole of the past.

I am not an obsessive-compulsive reader. And while I often have more than one book going at a time, I don’t hurry the process. I think about what I am reading. Books affect me and I am often in a state of that affectedness. I love when that happens; when a writer, living or dead, has caused me to pause, to feel, to learn. I am grateful to have been so changed.