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2nd December
written by Steph

Now these are souvenirs I can get behind!

For those of you who read Matt's blog, A Guy's Moleskine Notebook, you'll know that during our day spent with him, he took us to his very favorite bookstore in San Francisco, Green Apple Books. One of the things that immediately impressed me about GAB, as well as many other bookstores we popped into while in SF was just how much character they all have. A far cry from the cereal box Borders and Barnes & Nobles that dominate here in Nashville. GAB is one of those delightful bookstores that is just stuffed to the gills with shelves of books, so that the perfume of paper is heady in the air. Add to that narrow aisles and creaky wooden floors and you have a wonderful haven for lovers of books. One of my favorite sections at GAB was the discounted new book section, where overstock books were going from anywhere between $4 - $7. Normally at McKay's $4 for a book is at the top end of my budget, but the selection was so dizzying and exciting, especially in terms of the international fiction, I knew I needed to splurge and bring home some babies. It soon became clear that our carry-on luggage wouldn't cut it with my treasure trove, so we decided we'd have to mail my book bounty back to Nashville. After the jump, I'll dissect the titles I picked up in more detail. First, the used titles I picked up!

Coe, O'Farrell, Levi, and Gallant

The Winshaw Legacy by Jonathan Coe - This is a book that I keep seeing at the library and that I recently read about on a blog (whose identity now escapes me... if you've read it, let me know!) that is supposed to be one of the best examples of British humor, which y'all know I love. It seems like it will very much be in the style of P.G. Wodehouse who is one of my recently discovered loves, so naturally I'm very excited for this. After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell - After reading The Hand That First Held Mine, I've been really wanting to read more O'Farrell, but my McKay's hunts always leave me empty-handed. When I saw this at GAB, I knew I had to have it. The Periodic Table by Primo Levi - This is another book that's been on my wishlist for a looooong time, but I've never been able to find it here in town. The general idea is that it's a series of short stories, each one inspired by one of the elements on the periodic table of elements (though the stories are not necessarily scientific in nature). Way back in the day I was a chemistry major at university, so this is the geeky kind of book that is right up my alley. Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant - A few weeks ago, many book bloggers were taking part in the NYRB reading week, and I was super jealous because I've never seen any NYRB books here in Nashville. I realize I'm late to the party, but finally finding an NYRB title, I decided I should pick one up so that I can finally see what all the fuss is about.  And really, stories about Paris? Sold! The following are overstock books that were all new but heavily discounted.

Müller, Li, Auster, Woolf, Antunes, Eduardo and Márquez

The Appointment by Herta Müller - All I really new about Müller when I picked this up was that she had won the Nobel Prize for literature, and I'm always interested in reading authors who have earned that illustrious prize. The back synopsis was also sufficiently spooky that I knew it was something I wanted to read: A woman is summoned by the Romanian secret police and is charged with having sewn notes asking men to marry her into the lining of men's suits... Certainly not a premise I've encountered before, and I simply must know more! The Vagrants by Yiyun Li - Although I didn't even know that this book existed prior to visiting GAB, I knew I had to get it as soon as I picked it up. San Francisco has such a large Asian community that I knew an appropriate tribute would be to buy a book by an Asian author, and even better, Li is an Oakland native! The book revolves around the execution of a young Chinese woman who has spoken out against Communism, and the fallout her family experiences as a result of her acts. I have been wanting to read more Asian (specifically Chinese) literature, so this was a natural choice. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster - Auster is an author I discovered last year, and is certainly one of the most challenging writers I've encountered in a long while. Ever since reading The New York Trilogy I've wanted to read more by him, but his books are always super expensive at McKay's. This one was dirt cheap at GAB, so it was a no-brainer. Also: it has a pony on the cover! A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf - Woolf is an author I always feel like I should like, and yet I've always struggled with her fiction and have failed to finish any of her novels that I've attempted. I am hoping that I will have more luck with her non-fiction, and maybe this will be a springboard into other Woolf writings. Also, as one of the seminal pieces of feminist writing, this is something I know I simply must read. Knowledge of Hell by António Lobo Antunes - Another book that I picked up on a whim! I'd never heard anything about it before seeing it on the table at GAB, but I was intrigued by the fact that it features a psychiatrist and looks at the war between Portugal and Angola, something I pretty much know nothing about. It was also described as phantasmagorical which certainly piqued my interest! The Book of Chameleons by José Eduardo Agualusa - This is another book that I know I've seen on several book blogs (Eva, I'm sure I read about it on A Striped Armchair!), and the fact that it was written by an Angolan (see above) seemed very fortuitous as well. Also, the fact that it involves a character who "deals in memories" and sells new pasts to people was such a cool premise that I had to have it! Collected Novellas by Gabriel García Márquez - I am slowly but surely trying to collect the entire works of Márquez, but his books are always hella expensive at McKay's. This collection includes, Leaf Storm, No one Writes to the Colonel, and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I feel like you can never really go wrong with Márquez and I'm very excited to add this volume to my slowly growing collection.

My life's motto...

Last but not least, we picked up a t-shirt for Tony from GAB which I loved because of its slogan "So Many Books, So Little Time". Ain't that the truth? So there you have all our loot that we picked up in San Francisco! I'm super excited by all of these great finds, and am super happy with the versatility and diversity of the volumes I managed to find. Thanks so much to Matt (and the US Postal Service who got my books here yesterday) for taking me to the wonderful GAB!


  1. 12/02/2010

    I’ve been following your exploits over at Guy’s. GAB looks like a great store. The O’Farrel is not her best but it is still very good (and her first novel). I have the Paris stories, but haven’t read them yet.

  2. 12/02/2010

    Hooray all your babies arrived safe and sound! Now that I have looked at Tony’s t -shirt I think I’ll go back and grab one for myself! Herta Müller, Yiyun Li, and Primo Levi are all in my pile somewhere, so I need to get digging! By the way, Green Apple just announces no sales tax day next Friday. 🙂

  3. 12/02/2010

    Yay! Talk about some great loot! I loved the Coe book and hope you do, too. Its definitely an interesting read – not exactly knew what to expect and still not sure it was how I thought it would be (if that makes any sense). As for Woolf – excellent choice – I love her work and find it worthwhile (hope you do, too). Alright, well enjoy your bookish treasures – I can’t want to read your thoughts on them. And what a cool shirt – love that slogan!

  4. 12/02/2010

    I just picked up The Appointment a few weeks ago, also only knowing that Muller had won the Nobel Prize! I hope it’s good, for both of our sakes!

    A Room of One’s Own is on my classics project list. I’m looking forward to it!

  5. 12/02/2010

    Your souvenirs are bee-yoo-ti-ful! Have you ever been to Seattle? There are some lovely bookstores there, too…just like you, I had to enlist the help of the USPS to get my souvenirs home. 🙂

    The only book from the above pile that I’ve read is The Appointment…I struggled with it, so I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  6. 12/02/2010

    I have no idea what’s up with me and Paul Auster. I must have just gotten a bad book! I’ve heard he’s supposed to be real literary and difficult and well-written and all that, but the book I read was no more than a pulp novel, just as easy to read, but lacking a plot so that it became pointless as well as badly written and boring! I’m terrified to give him another try because I hated the first one I read so much!

  7. Eva

    Look at all those books! Awesome. 😀 I really enjoyed The Book of Chameleons: here’s my review (right now, you’re linking to one of my Moby Dick posts, lol).

    The Vagrants by Yiyun Li jumped out at me: I’ve found it difficult to connect with a lot of the Chinese fiction authors I’ve read, but I still have hope. 😉 If you’re looking for recommendations, Eileen Chang is the only author I can see myself really loving (that I’ve read so far). She’s a bit like Edith Wharton, I’d say.

  8. 12/03/2010

    @ Thomas: Tony is working on our mega SF post, so we’ll soon have something up describing our exploits in that wonderful city! 😀 I thought you were the person who also loved O’Farrell, but couldn’t remember… I think you were reading through a bunch of her works a while back?
    @ Matt: Yes, so glad they arrived safe and sound (and speedily too)! I definitely think you should get a matching shirt so the next time we’re in town you and Tony can be twins! 😉
    @ Nadia: So happy to hear you loved the Coe! I think his sense of humor is going to be a wonderful fit with mine, so here’s hoping I love the book! And I’m very excited for the Woolf – I am confident it will be a turning point for me!
    @ Erin: Yes, The Appointment was a total whim so I do hope its good… it sounds so promising! And I think A Room of One’s Own is a great entry on your classics project list; it’s certainly something I feel like I should have already read by now.
    @ softdrink: Never been to Seattle – my time on the West Coast has been very limited (this was only my second time!), but I’ve heard Seattle is pretty great and I’d love to go some day!
    @ Amanda: I think the Auster you read is a pretty weird one that even his hardcore fans don’t care much for. I’d definitely suggest trying something else by him – you may still not care for him, but I tend to believe even the very best authors write some duds! It would be a shame to write him off on the basis of a book that may very well not be all that representative of his work.
    @ Eva: Oops! How random that I linked to a Moby Dick post! I just meant to link to your main page, but thank you for including the link to your proper review!
    I think Matt has also reviewed some Eileen Chang, and maybe claire @ Kiss a Cloud, too… She’s definitely someone I’ll keep an eye out for! And Lan Samantha Chang too!

  9. Eva

    Oh! Just remembered a Chinese-American author who also really impressed me: Lan Samantha Chang. I read Hunger, which is a collection of stories + novella about Chinese immigrants in the US, but she also has a novel set in China out that I really want to read.

  10. I would love to visit San Francisco! Maybe one day.

    The Periodic Table is a book I have unread in my shelves; the concept excites me.

    A Room of One’s Own is my favourite piece of NF; Woolf’s nonfiction seems to be more accessible & sometimes more enjoyable than her fiction (although I loved Orlando & grew to love Mrs Dalloway).

    The Book of Chameleons was enjoyable; I am fascinated my animals narrators in literature.

    Chronicle of a Death Foretold is one of my favourite novellas. I was lucky to receive all of GGM’s fiction in a Penguin boxset one Christmas.

  11. Rick

    Hi guys! It was great to meet you on Sunday & to share the dim sum at Great Eastern. Looks like your trip to GAB was fun. The problem with that place is that I always end up spending more money than I planned. Re: British humor. Try Alan Bennett’s “An Uncommon Reader”. Too funny. Hope to see you again on your next trip to SF.

  12. 12/02/2010

    I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on the Auster. I’ve had a copy of Sunset Park here on my shelf for a while, but have not yet read it.

  13. 12/03/2010

    A great collection. I think I can say I almost never go to book shops these days – mostly because I only have large chain outlets near here which are pretty useless. You show here the benefits of browsing the shelves however – what a treat.

  14. What a fantastic selection of books! I want to read The Vagrants, but haven’t got a copy yet. I have The Periodic Table and really want to read it some time soon, but for some reason it is scaring me – hopefully you’ll read it soon and reassure me!

  15. 12/03/2010

    All of these books are new to me, but they sound very interesting. I am reading a book by Paul Auster right now (Sunset Park) and have to say that although he is subtle in his storytelling, he has some very resonant images in his writing. I love the t-shirt you picked up, and hope that you enjoy all your new reads! I will be anxious to hear about them all!

  16. 12/03/2010

    @ Claire: I can highly recommend San Francisco as a must visit U.S. city! It’s so darn cool!
    So happy to hear that you’ve had good experiences with so many of these books… that’s what I love about picking up seemingly unknown books – there’s always a book blogger who knows something about them! 😀
    @ Rick: It was so great to get to meet you and share a delicious meal with you! And we will certainly be back to SF at some point and we’ll definitely meet up again! Also, thanks for the Alan Bennett rec! I’ve heard lots of good things about it, and it certainly sounds like my kind of book!
    @ charley: I’ve already read one other Auster so I’ll certainly be interested to see how similar (or not) this one is. It seems like he’s quite versatile and changes up his style from book to book.
    @ Tom C: Yes, there is something particularly nice about going into non-chain stores where books are being pushed based on quality rather than corporate pressure. I do a lot of used bookstore browsing to fit my budget, because I do find that online merchants just don’t offer up the same experience as a physical bookstore at all!
    @ Jackie: Yes I’m a bit scared of The Periodic Table too, but I am not going to let that fear stop me from reading it. I have no idea when I’ll get to it, but it seems really interesting.
    @ zibilee: It seems like Sunset Park is the hot new Auster book! I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts on it!

  17. JoV

    I am late to comment and I’m elated that you got “The Vagrants”! I saw Matt’s post and how delighted you and Tony are spoilt for choice in that wonderful bookshop. Happy to see you had a great time in San Francisco. I hope to be there one day. 😉

  18. 12/03/2010

    That is an AMAZING haul. So many titles I want to try. Jealous here;P The Periodic Table was on my reading list when I did my History and Philosophy of Science course. I’m geeky about science in fiction too! And I also have Paris Stories. Happy reading!

  19. Eva

    No worries! Your post popped up in my links feed, and I was all like ‘Oooh: is Steph talking about Moby Dick? Awesome!’ So you can imagine my confusion on reading the post. Weird, right? 😉

  20. 12/03/2010

    I can’t wait to read the mega round-up of the SF trip. I’m sure you’ve taken pictures at La Folie, which is just a short walk from my house! 🙂

  21. 12/05/2010

    So, is the fact that you got A Room of One’s Own a sign you’ll join the discussion I’m hosting in May? You know you want to 😛

    Excellent sounding book loot. I’ve yet to read any of Lobo Antunes’ novels, but I do enjoy his weekly chronicles. And Claire has been urging me to read the Agualusa for ages.

    The bookstore sounds absolutely wonderful!

  22. 12/06/2010

    @ JoV: SF is a city not to be missed! We had such a good time, in large part thanks to Matt, but it’s really a great city that will likely charm any visitor! And the bookstores are truly fabulous!
    @ sakura: I always think that McKay’s here has such a wonderful selection, but I realized just how limited the scope of the fiction is, probably because it doesn’t seem as though Nashville has very many global readers. Clearly not the case in SF!
    @ Eva: Yes, I can imagine the confusion since there is nary a white whale in sight on this post… Oh internet!
    @ Matt: Tony is dilligently working on our mega-post, so hopefully we’ll get it up soon! And yes, we took plenty of pics of our decadent feast at La Folie! It may need a post all to itself!
    @ Nymeth: I didn’t realize you were hosting a discussion of A Room of One’s Own in May! That sounds like the perfect venue for me to try to conquer my Woolf fear! Consider me in!
    @ taryn: I know I know I know! Maybe I’ve been casting Hermione’s invisible extension spell (like she uses on her handbag in HP7) to make all these books fit?

  23. taryn

    STEPHENIE A. HARRISON!! You have an addiction. Don’t make me stage an intervention.
    But mostly, i just don’t understand how you can fit all these books in your teeny tiny apartment! You must have magicked it into a clown car, but in reverse. And with books instead of clowns (obviously).

  24. 12/06/2010

    I can’t read Woolf either. I’ve tried, but she’s just not for me. Glad I’m not alone!

  25. 12/07/2010

    Oooh sounds like a really good store and I love the t-shirt!

  26. Kathleen

    So glad you enjoyed your trip to SF and meeting Matt. He is one of my favorite book bloggers and one of the first blogs I followed was his. I live just south of SF and have sadly, never been to Green Apple Books! I am going to have to rectify that in 2011. I love the idea of that discount table!

  27. 12/13/2010

    @ Nicola: Oh, I feel so relieved that I am not the only blogger out there who struggles with Woolf! I’m glad I have some good company! 😉
    @ Stephanie: The t-shirt was so awesome… now I’m wondering why I didn’t get one for myself!
    @ Kathleen: Matt was truly delightful to meet and he certainly made our trip even better than it would have otherwise been. The next time you’re in SF you must go to Green Apple Books!

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