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!
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.
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.
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!