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29th September
written by Steph

What was the first step again?  Admitting I have a problem?

What was the first step again? Admitting I have a problem?

No seriously.  I clearly have some kind of problem when it comes to book buying.  Why is it that I cannot go more than three weeks before entering McKay’s only to leave with more books than I entered with (in this case, I didn’t even trade anything in!), when I have more than enough books in our apartment to last me for at least a year?  Why did I go when I had just finished saying to Tony that I need to read through some of what we have so that we can reasonably make space for new stock?  And yet I go and buy 17 books (and this is after – and I kid you not – I put back at least 10 other books).  Clearly this is now verging on a certifiable addiction, right?  I knew I shouldn’t have gone into McKay’s at all, but my reason for doing so was that I just finished reading the most recent Douglas Coupland novel, and it was so AMAZING (and that is really all I can say for now, because I am reviewing it for BookPage… but stay tuned for more on that some time in November) that I had to go out and buy more Coupland.  Like right away.  Because I kind of wondered how the heck it is I had gone so long without reading anything by him, and I worried that I might somehow cease to exist if I didn’t rectify this by reading everything he has ever written.  So I told Tony I wanted to go to McKay’s to check and see if they had any Coupland and that was all I would buy… and then as you can see from the picture, clearly things went terribly wrong (or did they go terribly right?), because prolific as he may be, Douglas Coupland has certainly not written 17 books.  Ahem.  After discussing this most recent binge with my friend Taryn, I have decided that probably my first mistake was taking a cart with me while browsing.  Obviously I need to stop doing that. Do I get any leeway given that our grocery bill for the week was only $34?  Surely that balances out this spree somewhat, right? After the jump, we examine the damage!
  • My Fellow Canadians

    My Fellow Canadians

    Pilgrim and The Wars by Timothy Findley – I read Not Wanted on the Voyage by Findley a few years ago and was blown away by how good it was (have you read it?  If not, get yourself a copy and do so.).  It was wildly imaginative but also just incredibly well written, so I know I need to read more Findley.  Sure I already have a copy of Headhunter sitting on the shelf unread, but I still can’t fight the impulse to buy Canadian authors when I find them in the South.
  • Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood – Despite my recent confession of ambivalence when it comes to Atwood, I do quite like this novel, and my current copy is actually really ugly.  This one was much prettier.  So even though it is technically a purchase, it was replacing something I own, which has now gone into the sell bag, so I think this was a justifiable purchase.
  • Microserfs & All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland – these are the reason I actually went to McKay’s.  A friend who has read all the Coupland there is said that Microserfs is her favourite of his books. Also, I could not pass up a book called All Families are Psychotic.  I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t.  For what it’s worth, I did put back Hey Nostradamus and Generation X, and I didn’t even pick up Jpod.
  • Mostly Tony's Stuff (minus the graphic design books)

    Mostly Tony's Stuff (minus the graphic design books)

    The Wall of Sky, The Wall of the Eye by Jonathan Lethem – I have one Lethem book here at home that I need to read soon (Motherless Brooklyn), but in all honesty this one wasn’t really for me.  I picked it up, but quickly tossed it Tony’s way because it seems to be a bunch of sci-fi short stories, so clearly that is more his area than mine.
  • When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale – I picked this one up too, but again, this was a Tony pick, because he has read Kneale’s English Passengers whereas I have not.  Tony says this is about a boy and his mother who are trying to escape a purported abusive father, and so they move to Rome where the boy is now the “man of the family”. Okay!
  • Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson – I read Behind the Scenes at the Museum a few years ago and really liked it, so I’ve wanted to read more of Atkinson’s non-detective fiction (I also read Case Histories, the first of Atkinson’s detective fiction, and it just didn’t do anything for me).  I’d never heard of this one, but it looks like Atkinson plays a lot with style in it, and it is supposed to be quite funny.  It involves a girl and her mother telling stories back and forth, and the mother is telling the girl about how she came to be, and in the process reveals something shocking.
  • On Love by Alain de Botton – I admit I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name, but mostly for him writing a douchey comment on a book reviewer’s blog for writing a less than effusive review of his latest book (not this one).  Clearly this should not recommend an author to me, but then I started to flip through the book and the writing was really very good, and I am a sucker for love stories, so I thought I would forget what I know about the author and give it a try.
  • Judge on Trial by Ivan Klima – I think we will call this a joint pick, as I technically picked it up and then showed it to Tony, joking that totalitarian Europe is so my literary vice.  But my plan backfired because maybe totalitarian Europe is one of Tony’s vices and he thought this sounded interesting.  And I admit, I am intrigued by someone who is said to write like Doestoevsky and Kafka (despite never having read either of them), and I do expect this will be a good book.
  • Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks – Tony’s choice.  This book has been at McKay’s the last 20 times we have been there, but it is only now that he suddenly wants to read it.  I have no idea what it is about, but it is clearly quite long… Tony says it is about abolitionism, clearly another one of his secret literary vices.  Also, Tony hearts Harper’s Ferry (where? Exactly.) where this book takes place. [Note: Tony claims that actually HF is miserable, but I guess he wants to spend more time there fictionally.]
  • Yup.  Those are more books.

    Yup. Those are more books.

    The Easter Parade by Richard Yates – I still have not read Revolutionary Road, but I somehow just know that I will love Yates when I do read him, so it will be good that I have another one of his books waiting for me.  Also, unlike my cheap copy of Rev Road this one does not have a horrifying movie tie-in cover!
  • Bedlam Burning by Geoff Nicholson – This was a random find.  It involves a writer who is too ugly to have his author’s portrait taken, so he gets his friend to sit in for him.  But then his book becomes a hit and so his friend winds up in an insane asylum so that he can be the writer in residence (?), and then it is all about how said friend cannot escape.  It seemed like it would be a funny One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Also the author was British, which is like the golden ticket to novel writing, no?
  • A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipul – I have never read any Naipul but I feel that I should, in part because he is from Trinidad as is my mom, but I have never read a Trinidadian author.  Also, he won the Nobel Prize for literature, so that clearly he is doing something right.
  • The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima – So, I randomly took this book called The Temple of the Golden Pavilion out from the library on our last visit, and it was written by Mishima.  And I read it and my world was rocked by how good it was, and I haven’t written about it only because I then foisted it on Tony so that he could read it so that we can talk about it and joint review the heck out of that sucker, so you will have to be patient and wait while Tony finishes it up.  But anyway, I loved Mishima’s writing so much that I wanted to read more by him, in particular, The Sound of Waves, and I really didn’t think McKay’s would have it, because have you ever even heard of this author?  But they did have it, and so I figured I should buy it so that I can read it, and in so doing, continue to spread the word about Mishima.
  • Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff – I found this book on Amazon years ago and thought it looked interesting.  A friend here in Nashville wound up buying it and said it was amazing, so now is finally my chance to read it.  The main narrator suffers from multiple personality disorder, and I think it will be pretty mind-blowing.
  • About Grace by Anthony Doerr – I won’t lie – I picked this up because the cover was really pretty.  And then the inside flap sounded interesting enough (man flees to an island in order to try to subvert his daughter’s impending tragic fate that he has had a premonition of), and then it was only $2.  Sold!
So, have you read any of these?  More importantly, do you also suffer from this debilitating but exhilarating book buying affliction?


  1. 09/29/2009

    Love that you went out and bought so many books!!! Definitely worthwhile spending!! If I had a McKay’s nearby I would live there. I went to one in Knoxville when I went to visit my sister and I didn’t want to leave. I bought so many books I was on cloud 9! Anyhow, I applaud you on your grocery bill and book shopping. Cheers!

  2. Eva

    I really enjoyed When We Were Romans-I read it last summer! And I’ve read two of de Botton’s books now and loved them both! And I read The Sound of Waves for the Japanese Lit Challenge after Chris recommended it, and it was completley beaitiful. 😀 Now I”m putting The Temple of the Golden Pavillion on my TBR list!

  3. 09/29/2009

    Wow, and I thought I was bad! No, I’m worse. I’m sneaky with my compulsive book-buying, because I buy them one or two at a time. That way it’s less noticeable 😀
    I hope you write about the Mishima on your blog one day. I’ve been on/off debating whether I should read it or not – no, actually I’ve lazily been waiting for someone to make my mind up for me.

    And, no, I have not read any of those books. In fact the only ones I’ve even heard of are the Atwood and the Botton. Douchebag or not, Alain de Botton gets a thumbs up from me. I liked his ‘Consolations of Philosophy’. It was fun in a douchey way. Also, I like your justification for buying Cat’s Eye. I’m always trying to replace my ugly books with prettier editions, only I can never quite reach into my wallet and PAY for the damned things because how can it be ethical of me to own three copies of Jane Eyre when those kids in poor countries don’t even have one? (err, not trying to guilt trip you or anything).

  4. 09/29/2009

    p.s. I sound so schitzo:

    “I’m this-and-that – NO! I’m actually this”
    “I’ve been waiting for blah-blah – NO! Actually -”

    Anyway, the real reason for my p.s. – I wholeheartedly agree that movie tie-in covers are horrifying. Particularly the ‘Revolutionary Road’ one.

  5. 09/29/2009

    Oh yeah, I definitely have this addiction. Tomorrow I’m giving away my THIRD copy of Invisible Man in honor of Banned Books Week. In my defense, two of my three copies were free. But notice I’m not giving away the second. It’s because I have the book in two editions. I’m in a sad state. My TBR pile has gotten so big over the last couple weeks, I don’t know what to read next, especially since I decided to read the challenged classics that I haven’t already read purely out of contrariness. (I haven’t read them already because I don’t actually want to.)

  6. 09/29/2009

    @ Nadia: My life in Nashville completely changed when McKay’s opened up here. Next to meeting my husband here, it’s probably the thing I love best about this crazy city.
    @ Eva: I will be heading over to your blog to check out your reviews on the Kneale and the Mishima. I’m so impressed that you had actually heard of him – they had a copy of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion at McKay’s but the Everyman’s copy we got from the library is especially pretty so I think we will hold out for that one!
    @ Tuesday: We will definitely be reviewing the Mishima, and will probably get it up sometime next week – it just depends on when Tony finishes reading it! But I can tell you that it’s really good, and not to spoil anything for you, but it got another 5 stars from me. I don’t want you to think I’m going soft, it just really was that good! But it’s cool if you don’t believe me right now – just wait for our review! 😉
    Also, I normally justify my ridiculous book buying by realizing I purchase books for pretty cheap as I buy them second-hand… but I really love pretty books, and my Cat’s Eye was a mass market paperback version – clearly unacceptable! So, I think that for everyday reading, it’s fine for a book not to be gorgeous, but if I’m going to keep something on my shelves, then I totally want to nicest copy out there! This is not the first time I’ve rebought something I already own, simply because I’ve found a nicer copy (see: Candide & Dracula, for examples of this). When I’ve read Revolutionary Road (and loved it), I will no doubt keep an eye out for a lovely non-movie version of it!
    @ Cara: I have a copy of Invisible Man, but I haven’t read it yet! And don’t feel bad about buying multiple copies of loved books – I have two copies of All The King’s Men, because I love it so much, and like buying it in different editions… I have also done this with the Harry Potter books…

  7. 09/29/2009

    Heh. You are so not alone with this book buying problem. It’s gotten so bad here that we’ve had to come up with some rules (One book in, one book out. One book per week, etc.)but the rules haven’t quite been working lately. We’ve worked out that if I didn’t buy another book for a couple of years, I’d still have new stuff to read, but I sometimes I can’t stop myself. The new argument seems to be that we are running out of space, but as I see that the garage is still half empty, I am not taking that seriously. So, like I said, you are not alone.

    I don’t have any of the books that you recently brought home, but I did add a few to my list after reading this post. Just don’t tell anybody.

  8. 09/29/2009

    Hahah, that’s okay then! Usually I have perfectly new copies, but I just see another cover that I want… Penguin doesn’t make it any easier for me, because they always seem to be repackaging their books. Those sneaky marketers, preying on innocent bibliophiles like me. Hahah 😀

    p.s. wow, so soon?! You guys read really, really fast! Have you already read all 17 of them, or did you just happen to get to the Mishima first?!! :O

  9. 09/29/2009

    Steph.. Another overlap for us. I have recently purchased The Temple of the GOlden Pavilion and is part of my October reading list!! So excited!! Especially now that it got 5 stars from you!! It’s going to be my first Mishima too.

    I’m also psyched that you loved GEneration A! I’ve been meaning to read GEneration X since I was a teenager but couldn’t find a copy in the Philippines then. Now I really have no excuse not to, but keep putting it off still. Now that Gen A is out I must go and read Gen X first. Also, I’ve only read one Coupland, which is Eleanor Rigby and while it didn’t blow me away, I still really, really liked it. So much that if I saw a nice used copy I’d buy it to keep. (It was a library book that I read.)

    I agree with Tuesday, your Cat’s Eye purchase is definitely justifiable. My copy is also ratty but then it’s at my dad’s in the Phils so maybe when I find a nicer one here I’ll take it. 🙂

    Yay for The Easter Parade!! You know I loved REv Road sooo much that I went ahead and got Cold Spring Harbor and Young Hearts Crying. The Easter Parade is next on the list, after the two.

    I also liked Behind the Scenes at the Museum but haven’t read anything else by her. Would be really interested to hear your thoughts on that Atkinson.

    Wasn’t wowed by When We Were Romans but it was fairly nice. It reminded me of The CUrious Incident, except The Curious was a little more effective, I think. But then you know I picked up English Passengers as I heard it’s a lot better (and so you told me that Tony really liked it). 🙂

    And oh.. how cool that your mom’s from Trinidad. Am pretty sure I’ve read a few books by Trinidadians but not Naipaul. A House for Mr Biswas is on the tbr shelf and I intend to tackle it as soon as my challenges are over.. phew.

    Okay.. I’ve rattled on enough. Sorry bout that. Your McKay’s trips just excite me to no end and you know it!

  10. 09/29/2009

    Hey now–I’ve been to Harper’s Ferry a few times, and I wouldn’t call it miserable, just teeny tiny. (From DC, it’s a nice Sunday afternoon out when you have guests.)

    The Easter Parade is fabulous, but bleak, bleak, bleak. I loved it!

  11. I love buying books! You have an impressive selection there, but I haven’t read any of them. I haven’t even heard of half of them! I look forward to finding out if any of them are worth buying!

  12. 09/30/2009

    @ Zibilee: We have tried to instigate rules as well (e.g., “Have to have at least 10 books to return to McKay’s before we go back”) and yet they do not work either. The problem is that I always find way more than 10 books that I want! And given how cheap they sell their books for, 10 books does not make us much money, even when considering trade. So this time I am going to say I have to have at least 20 books (as I already have 9 in the bag as of typing)… and let’s hope I stick to it!
    @ Tuesday: I agree that Penguin books are probably my most coveted!
    Oh, but I think I misunderstood your comment re: Mishima – I haven’t read The Sound of Waves yet, but I did recently read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, and once Tony has finished with it (he’s about halfway through now), we will write a joint review! So I probably won’t have a review of Waves up any time soon, but we will be featuring Mishima in the near future!
    @ claire: I am so sure you will love Temple of the Golden Pavilion! I found it very challenging, but the writing really was gorgeous! Review to come hopefully in the next week!
    Words cannot even describe my love for Gen A! Seriously so good. I am working on my BookPage review at the moment, and right now I am unhappy with it because the book was so good and I feel I am only capturing bits of the brilliance in my review… You can be sure that when I link to my review come November, I will have a rave posted here!
    I have long hated my copy of Cat’s Eye, but normally the Atwoods at McKay’s are pretty pricey. For some reason they had a really nice copy of Cat’s Eye for just $1.50, so I went ahead and decided to replace my MMP copy!
    I will read Rev Road before Easter Parade – I am totally jealous of your beautiful Yates books. You got them from the Book Depository, I think?
    Lately my reading has been very male-dominated, so I am feeling the need to mix things up with some strong female writers. I think I will really like this Atkinson I bought, so long as I can keep up with all the stylistic changes!
    I think Tony will probably get to Romans before I do – then again, it might serve me best to do as you are and read it before I try English Passengers!
    Yup, my mom is originally from Trinidad, but I’ve never done much to explore her heritage and culture (apart from some food stuff! 😉 ), so I’m looking forward to reading my first Naipul! 😉
    @ Teresa: I think Tony may dislike HF because he’s only ever been out there for work, AND whenever he goes the weather is ALWAYS miserable!
    I am looking forward to finally discovering Yates! I need to take a break from male authors for the moment (I’ve read something like 6 or 7 in a row!), but I know I must read him sooner rather than later!
    @ Jackie: I am hoping we have some gems here! I am sure some of the better known authors will be good stuff, I just hope the more random purchases also pan out!

  13. 09/30/2009

    I SO want to buy myself a book. I haven’t bought myself a book since….I can’t remember. Unless you count the $1 book I found on the library for sale table.

    I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to buy a brand new, nicely-smelling book, just for myself.

    But I have no money. That saves me from addiction, I guess!

  14. 09/30/2009

    When We Were Roman and Cat’s Eye are also in my TBR pile. Never trust that you would just buy the one book you intend to…I don’t! LOL

  15. 10/01/2009

    @ Rebecca: I can’t remember the last time I bought a new book… and I’m sure even then I would have bought something off the bargain table!
    @ Matt: You’re right! I never do just get one or two books (well, there was one time, but that was an anomaly), so from now on I know that I need to just avoid the temptation since I can’t resist!

  16. 10/02/2009

    lol. Yep, admitting you have a problem is the first step 😛 Sadly, I’ve yet to manage to go much beyond that first step…

    Douglas Coupland is one of my favourite authors, and I’m so glad you were so impressed with his new one! I’m meant to be on a book buying ban, but I want it. Badly.

  17. 10/03/2009

    @ Nymeth: As if it weren’t clear from this post, the new Coupland is SO good. One of those books that makes you say, “why haven’t I been reading this author all my life?!?”

  18. 10/04/2009

    The only good thing I can tell you (as a form of consolation if you like) is that you are never alone!!!
    There are literally thousands of us who are like you and
    though I do not have a McKay or a Borders (yet) in Sri Lanka and very unlikely to have one in the near future, the fact that I still love to buy books/but fortunately do not because the cost of books is prohibitive in this part of the world and I just cannot afford to buy new. The part that saves my sanity is that there are second hand book not shops but stalls and you come across gems from time to time. Very few of the newly published books of course but gems all the same. So we are grateful for small mercies.

    Incidentally I came to your blog only today but will be following regularly now. Love the writing style as well.


  19. 10/04/2009

    okay, I’ve never heard of McKays (except as a furniture store) and I doubt you got those treasures there …LOL

    Don’t been too hard on yourself; we all have control issues I think. I am a “sneak” book buyer. Little by little they creep inside from my trunk LOL

  20. 10/05/2009

    @ Mystica: Thanks for stopping by! Finding newly published books is certainly nice, but I think you are right to view older books as gems. This time I didn’t have the time to browse through the Classics aisle, but as I am getting back into the swing of reading older literature, I certainly will be making that a priority in the future!
    @ diane: McKay’s is a used bookstore chain here in Tennessee,one that has wreaked havoc on my TBR pile. Whenever I’m there I can’t help but buy as many books as my arms can carry!

  21. 10/14/2009

    Really enjoyed this post, Steph! I’m surrounded by great bookstores here in the Boston/Cambridge area, so I have a hard time going even a week or so without buying anything. Which wouldn’t be such a huge problem, but I recently realized that I also have more than 50 books out from the library at the moment as well. Way more books than free time to read! Luckily, I have stopped hoarding CDs and DVDs lately…although all the nice things you say about Mishima here make me REALLY interested in the Mishima-related DVDs that have come out in the last year. Yikes!

  22. 10/14/2009

    @ Richard: Tony just finished up The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, so we should be able to get our review posted pretty soon! It’s a wonderful novel, one that I think you would really appreciate.

    Thankfully my library stack is mostly under control! I do go a little wild when there, but I’m not sure I’d be allowed to take out 50 books!

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