On Saturday I was invited by friends to attend a book reading at my favorite plucky local independent, Third Place Books. The author was one I'd not read, Spencer Quinn, who pens a mystery series featuring private detective Bernie and his dog Chet. The unusual thing about these mysteries is that they are narrated by Chet.
Yes, you read that right -- the narrator is a dog.
I was dubious, but I had heard of the series and people said good things about it, so I went with an open mind. Mr. Quinn was quite entertaining, and told us in a very humorous fashion about the books and how he writes from the canine point of view (there are a lot of smells involved). He read a short excerpt which was most enjoyable. I admit that I did not wind up buying a book, but my friend Mary did, and had the author inscribe it to her cat. Interesting choice.
While it all did sound most promising, I think I'll wait for Mary's review before checking one out myself.
According to my favorite neighbor, Charlesia, the question is not, "How do I find books" but rather, "How do I find so many books"....I told her just this past Saturday that I was on my way to the bookstore, and she said, "You may bring back only ONE book! You don't have room for more!"
Well, actually, I had recently bought a bookcase at a secondhand store that was going out of business and selling off its display shelves -- even though I had no books to put in it at the time. Because I knew I soon would. So Charlesia is sadly mistaken -- there is room for more than one new book in my house. That weekend I bought three.
Here's where/how I find lots and lots and lots of books to fill up my tiny home:
Shelf Awareness is a web site with reviews from independent booksellers around the country on newly published titles (and sometimes older ones as well) in all areas, both fiction and nonfiction. You can subscribe and get an email newsletter twice a week, though you can also just read the site.
As my friend Mary over at her blog, "Blahdeblahblah" likes to call them, I regularly visit my Plucky Local Independent bookstores, though they have sadly declined in number since I moved here lo these many decades ago. My all-time favorites are the University Bookstore just a hop, skip, and jump from where I work, and Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Both have new and used books, frequent sales, and friendly staff -- though the U Bookstore wins hands-down for "most effusive Truman appreciators".
A store I don't get to very often due to location (but which I hope to visit this coming weekend) is the Seattle Mystery Bookshop in Pioneer Square. Fabulous selection (again, both new and used).
Friends of the Library sales: these happen once or twice a year for the Seattle library, and take up a huge old hangar with well over 100,000 books at $1-$2 a pop (and half-price on Sunday!). The next one is in September and I have my strategy well mapped out after years of practice. I often come home (much to Charlesia's dismay) with 20-40 books from these sales.
Yard/garage sales: rarely do I venture in search of these, but I keep an eye on the listings for them in both the Seattle Times and on Craigslist in case there is one mentioning books that isn't too far off. My best score was when a local birder cleaned house -- that was a good yard sale indeed.
Speaking of Craigslist, they have a category for people selling books -- most of it is not anything of interest (though it can make for amusing reading, as in "1970 encyclopedia set only $150!"...dream on, folks...) but occasionally something interesting pops up there. Last year it was a family selling off their folks' estate, which included over 25,000 books and I can tell you, these were well-read, well-educated people. Good stuff. This year's score was an Encyclopedia Britannica set from the 1960s, and unlike the doofus above, it was reasonably priced -- as in, it was free.
One place I do NOT find books, nor buy books from, and never will, is amazon...for many reasons, though if you google "amazon" and "Hatchette", you'll get a good idea of their nefarious business practices. Steer clear, and keep supporting your Plucky Local Independents!
Nonfiction The Great Northwest: The Story of a Land and Its People (nothing special) The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan (Christopher Benfey) A well written account of fascinating people in a fascinating time. Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr (Richard Rhodes) Entertaining though rather slight. The Green Treasury (Edwin Way Teale, editor) A collection of nature essays by various authors that went on too long and was too repetitive. Hill Country Harvest (Hal Borland) Life on a Connecticut farm in the 1960s, well rendered. In Search of England (Michael Wood) Focused on origins of national identity; started out well, then got a bit too dry.
Fiction The Long Farewell (Michael Innes) Classic British mystery. The Crabtree Affair (Innes, ditto) The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Reif Larsen) About a boy genius who views the world through his own mapmaking; a very unusual novel supplemented by maps/illustrations; eccentric and heartfelt. We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea (Arthur Ransome) 1930s British children's adventure; a fourth re-read. Fairs' Point (Melissa Scott) 4th in a fantasy series. A Man Lay Dead (Ngaio Marsh) Classic British mystery revisited. Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Susan MacNeal) Mystery set in 1940s London (by contemporary author) which had great promise but should have been much better; marred by anachronism and 21st-century attitudes. Amy Falls Down (Jincy Willett) Bitingly funny novel about an aging novelist whose stagnant career is revitalized literally by accident, with lots of amusement at the expense of the publishing industry and the popular media.
The Big Read total so far for 2014 = 105 Number to beat for the record = 147