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11th April
2011
written by Steph

Please support your local bookstores so that I don't go to the poorhouse...

By now, many fellow bloggers have posted about the spoils of trips to Borders locations that are closing in the face of the corporation’s recent declaration of Bankruptcy. In the Nashville area there are three Borders locations and all but one are closing their doors. The first location that is slated to close does so at the end of this week, so Tony and I decided to go check it out one last time to see if there was anything left worth bringing home. With literature prices slashed to 70% off, I didn’t expect to really find anything, but as you can see from the above picture, clearly I did. Turns out that my reading tastes are perhaps not quite as mainstream as the general public’s. Their loss is my gain, and all that, but I feel like one thing that has been missing from many of the posts I’ve read about these store closings is how unbelievably depressing the atmosphere is. The closing of any bookstore makes me sad in principle, but to actually witness a repository of books being dismantled, the shelves bare, books carelessly shelved any which where… depressing is the only word. Thankfully I was able to bring some lovelies home with me so they can escape the indignity of the pulp pile, but my visit to Borders did reiterate to me just how little most people value and treasure books. Sad.

But enough maudlin musings. Let’s revel in the good stuff after the jump!

  • Teetering at the top of the pile is a Fodor’s guidebook to India. Normally I find travel guides too expensive to purchase (especially given how quickly they go out of date), but this one was a good enough deal that we figured it will serve us well for planning a trip to India. No, we don’t have a specific date fixed, but it’s somewhere on the horizon and we definitely intend to make our way there one day.
  • The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno – Despite not having huge success with Meno’s most recent novel, The Great Perhaps, I have always been curious about this earlier novel of his. When I was perusing reviews of TGP many people who mentioned being somewhat underwhelmed by it talked about how it didn’t hold a candle to this one, so I’m hoping I’ll have better luck with this. A quick flip through suggests it’s written in a somewhat experimental style, using lists, etc., in the telling of the story, so that’s already looking promising!

  • The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist – This is a book that I saw discussed quite a lot on several trusted book blogs last year. I was worried that the premise might be too similar to Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, a book I really did not like, but Jill over at Rhapsody in Books assured me that they were sufficiently different that reading this one would be worthwhile and might actually bother me less. We shall see!
  • Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden – This was actually recommended to me via Your Next Read, so I suppose we’ll see how accurate it is at suggesting books I like. This was a finalist for the Orange Prize in 1997, and is billed as a very slow, contemplative novel that spans just one day. I’ve been in the mood for quieter, more reflective novels, so I was really excited to see this one.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – This is a book that I’ve read before but don’t have a copy of it. I love books that delve into the notion of sanity and mental illness, so it should come as no surprise that I like this book a lot. Very happy to add it to the home library.
  • The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell – Another previous read, this was actually the first O’Farrell I read and I loved it. I only had an ARC and gave it to a friend, so I’ve been looking to replace the gap in my shelves for a while now.
  • Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas – See above. Read an ARC of this on my ereader last year, and have since decided I liked it enough that I wanted a physical copy. Lucky me, they had the hardcover in stock, which is seriously one of the prettiest and most striking books I’ve ever seen. I’m now on a mission to collect all of Scarlett Thomas’s books… don’t you love when you discover a new author to love?
  • Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco – This won the Man Asian literary prize and I’ve also never read anything by a Filipino author, which almost seems like reason enough to pick this up. Throw in raves from Chasing Bawa and Sasha & the Silverfish and I was sold. Exciting! My shelves become increasingly diverse…
  • The Lonely Polygamist by Bradley Udall – When this book first came out, I dismissed it as being too similar to The 19th Wife and/or the television show Big Love to warrant my time. Then I started to read things about its humor and wonderful story, and I began to reconsider. When Zibilee at Raging Biblomania talked about how much she liked it and how engrossing she found this monster, I changed my stance and decided I had to read it. And now I can!
  • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene – Greene is an author that Tony and I have been slowly collecting because he is all kinds of awesome. Don’t really know what this one is about, but it hardly matters—I’ll read it anyway.

  • Oracle Night by Paul Auster- Ditto Paul Auster. I’ve not really heard very much about this book except from Amanda over at The Zen Leaf who hated it, which isn’t exactly a reason to buy it, but I am a completist and I figured I might as well buy it and read it and if I hate it, then I can easily get rid of it.
  • Death With Interruptions by José Saramago – And same goes for Saramago. I love him but his books are always SO expensive at McKay’s. For $4.50 I got his penultimate novel new… and I’ve been wanting to read this one ever since it was released.
  • Slow Man, Summertime, and Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee – I also love me some Coetzee even though (or perhaps because?) he is 10,000 times smarter than I am. Like Saramago, his books cost a pretty penny (or 800) at McKay’s, so with these at half that price, stocking up was a no brainer.
  • The Art of Losing by Rebecca Connell – Here starts the part of the pile where I went crazy and picked up as many Europa Editions as I could find. Don’t really know much about this one except that involves a young woman who sets out to find the man she believes is responsible for her mother’s death. It sounds like the book is perhaps quite dark and très tragique so I’m excited.
  • A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé – A book about books! How could I resist? Especially after reading the great reviews over at A Common Reader and Nonsuch Book. Clearly I could not! It’s also a mystery to boot (even if that’s not the strongest part of the novel). Sold!
  • In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut – Read quite a bit about this one when it was up for the Booker Prize last year and I know it’s supposed to be quite experimental and perhaps somewhat Coetzee-esque. I figured that at $4.25, I could risk giving it a shot.
  • Chalcot Crescent by Fay Weldon – This one I picked up on a whim having never heard of it before. But the premise was intriguing: Weldon’s mother suffered a miscarriage not long after Weldon herself was born and lost a daughter in the process. Weldon wrote this novel in which she envisions what her sister and her life might have been like had she lived.
  • God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam – Another author suggested to me via Your Next Read. Apparently she is very funny and in this book she does some skewering of religion, so it seems as good a place to start as any. I am hoping I love her!

So that’s what I rescued from just one of the closing Borders… I hate to think of what I might find at the one that is within walking distance from my home. But more than that, I hate to think of the gaping wound Borders will leave when it is empty and the lights dimmed. I will pass it every day, and will probably feel a little bit sadder each time I think of all the books that were once in there, waiting for people to share their stories with, only to find that not enough people wanted them.

31 Comments

  1. 04/11/2011

    I got The Lonely Polygamist because of Zibilee, too! I haven’t read it yet. I could do a buddy read if you want to do one :-)

  2. 04/11/2011

    I was awfully tempted to go to the Borders closing sale last week, but I knew it would shoot my new bookcase management system all to hell. Plus, I thought it would be pretty depressing, even if I don’t ever go to the Borders that’s closing. I remember going to the closing sale at a DC indie that I used to frequent, and it was pretty sad.

    Jill is quite right that The Unit is not at all like Never Let Me Go. I found The Unit more disturbing, but it sort of hit me where I live. It was also a little less well-written the NLMG, but not irritatingly so. And I loved The Heart of the Matter. Greene is one of those others, along with Waugh and Maugham, that I keep wanting to read more and then never do.

  3. 04/11/2011

    I could hardly find anything at my Border’s! I was so disappointed! But I could hardly find anything there (compared to the B&N) even before the bankruptcy proceedings, so it wasn’t a surprise. The only thing I came out with was a sudoku book that has been taking all my attention lately….

  4. 04/11/2011

    Wow what a great haul! I hope you enjoy The Lonely Polygamist. I read it a few months ago and while I found it a bit tedious in spots, I thought it was more well written than The 19th Wife.

  5. 04/11/2011

    I read The Unit first and then Never Let Me Go and I disliked the latter largely because it wasn’t the former, though I had thought the two would be very similar. They are, sort of, with the difference that in Never Let Me Go you have a boarding-school, how-people-deal-with-people-in-close-quarters story with a TWIST, whereas in The Unit you have that twist first and then spend the rest of the book realizing how much that sucks by watching boarding-school-type characters deal with each other in close quarters. This is a pretty big difference, though. :)

  6. 04/11/2011

    Nice haul! I wonder if my local Borders has anything interesting left … I liked Molly Fox’s Birthday quite a lot and all those Europa Editions look great!

  7. I went to the Madison Borders closing twice and got a number of good books, but you’re right, going in was sad. The employees seemed rightfully demoralized, the books were a mess, and seeing all the shelves empty was depressing. I haven’t posted about the books I bought because it felt more like kicking someone while they’re down than being excited about books, but then again it is really fun to see what things other people pick up. Maybe I’ll get to it this week.

  8. 04/12/2011

    Wow, that’s some finds you have there! Thanks for going to the trouble of explaining why you chose these books, your reasoning made me add a few to my own list!

  9. 04/12/2011

    I have avoided the Borders sale because I just have too many books that need to be read here, and it’s gotten to the point where space is an issue. I am trying only to buy ebooks at this point, unless it’s unavoidable. I am so super thrilled that you will be reading The Lonely Polygamist at some point, and that you got it at such a great price! It really is an awesome book. I also like the others that you brought home and think that you got some incredible deals over there. I hope that you enjoy them all!

  10. 04/12/2011

    That is an IMPRESSIVE stack. It is sad to see bookshops closing down (even though us obsessive hoarders can’t help but look for bargains). So many titles that are new to me except for Our Tragic Universe and Ilustrado, both of which I loved:) And I am dying to get my hands on A Novel Bookstore. I too saw it featured in Frances’ blog and have been curious ever since.

  11. 04/12/2011

    @ Aarti: A buddy read could be fun! Maybe sometime this summer? I feel I’ll have more time to read/blog consistently then!
     
    @ Teresa: I honestly didn’t think there would be anything left at this Borders, but there were still about 4 bookcases of literature for me to sift through and I will say that I did put some titles back. I think it’s about time I caved and purchased another bookcase for the apartment, which would certainly be devoted entirely to TBRs!
    Also, I didn’t really think NLMG was very well written at all, but I expected that The Unit might be a little less refined simply because I know it is a translation and I find I have to be a little more flexible with those.
     
    @ rhapsody: The Borders close to my apartment must have just recently announced that it is closing and when I wandered in their last week, it seemed like it didn’t have tons of great items either, even though I don’t think it’s been picked over all that much, I think it just doesn’t have much variety. Literature is still only going for 30% off, so I’ll wait until it’s down to 70% before I venture in again.
     
    @ Stephanie: I am normally scared of long books because I find they do tend to drag, but hopefully I’ll find this one a delightful romp!
     
    @ Alison: I’m glad to hear that you also preferred The Unit to NLMG! I am pretty sure I’ll read this one soonish, so I can’t wait to add my 2 cents worth.
     
    @ Dorothy W.: I was really excited to find all those Europas (put one or two back, but am excited about the ones I kept) and they were each only about $4, which really seemed like a steal.
     
    @ Kim: I think you should post about your loot! It’s sad that Borders is doing so badly, and that many other bookstores are suffering the same fate, but books are meant to be celebrated… I hope that my book-buying posts inspire others to head out and buy books too!
     

  12. 04/12/2011

    @ joanna: I love making lists, so I can’t help but explain my rationale when it comes to books! Plus, pictures of books are great, but words are better! ;)
     
    @ zibilee: I have been trying to go the ebook route too, but you can see I have not been very successful! TLP is a book that I would have happily borrowed from my library if it were in ebook format, but I guess I was destined for the hardcover copy instead! ;)
     
    @ sakura: I did a little jig when I saw A Novel Bookstore on the shelf (same with the HB Our Tragic Universe). Definitely two finds that I was very excited about!

  13. JoV
    04/12/2011

    Read the Tragic Universe last year, love it and has since collected her two other pretty covers book, i.e. The end of Mr. Y and Popco. You should see PopCo, regardless whether it is a good read or not, it adds colour to your shelf with those blue pages!! :)

  14. 04/12/2011

    It sure makes a pretty stack of books!

    By the way, I found a copy of All the Kings Men at a thrift shop for $2 today, so even though I put it back at the Borders,I found it again!

  15. 04/12/2011

    I was just in Nashville this past weekend and my mom told me the West End and Cool Springs Borders were closing. I had no idea there even WAS a Cool Springs Borders; B&N has always been the visible, dominant bookstore there. Maybe that says something…

  16. I have read a lot of your new books, but unfortunately I haven’t had much success with them. I’ll be especially interested in your thoughts on The Unit – I hope that you enjoy it more than I did.

    I agree that Scarlett Thomas’s books are some of the most beautiful around :-) Enjoy your hard copy!

  17. 04/13/2011

    Our Borders is not closing, so I haven’t had to expose myself to the depressing scene. I still like our local B&N better than the Borders…it’s got a more bookish feel to it. The Borders inevitably has screaming children and people yelling into their cell phones. But I did stop by and buy a few books from them the other day. At full price. Do I get brownie points for that?

  18. 04/13/2011

    The Borders near me isn’t closing, so I don’t have to walk in to a depressing scene – which I can imagine it is. At least you were able to walk away with some great books – can’t believe that some of those deals weren’t gobbled up already (talk about good reads). I hope you like The Unit – I loved it! And I can’t wait to read your thoughts on A Novel Bookstore. Enjoy your haul :)

  19. 04/14/2011

    Ooh, India! That’s a wonderful place to visit. My husband is from there, and I LOVE going over.

    I can’t believe how much you found! I’ve found a couple of things here and there, but your pile is just impressive.

    The atmosphere, though, is definitely depressing. I think I have a bit of a ‘tude toward big box stores left over from my indie bookseller days that makes me less sad than I maybe should be. But then, all kinds of bookstores are closing, indies included, which is most definitely sad. And if it’s affecting the mega chains…that’s really bad.

  20. [...] (Steph & Tony Investigate) posted about her Borders books earlier this week, and was one of the few posts I remember reading that acknowledged just how [...]

  21. 04/15/2011

    I remember when all the Borders in the UK closed down about 15 months ago – I was heartbroken! I used to love moseying round their massive stores and sipping coffee while I considered my purchases (it’s a whole day out, you know, if done properly!). I got some absolute gems too for next to nothing.

    I hope you enjoy the Saramago – I love him, although I haven’t read this book yet (I do have it though). I also love the sound of A Novel Bookstore – books and a mystery? What’s not to love???

  22. 04/15/2011

    Death with Interruptions just sent me over the edge of the seat! That’s all I’m going to say about it. You have to read for yourself. It’s like nothing I’ve read before.

    I contributed my share to the Borders liquidation campaign. I looted a bunch of obscure books when they finally marked everything down to 70% off. But the greatest find was those fixtures/bookcases that are perfect for trade paperbacks because the height of the rungs is not too tall. $25 a piece and I got 3.

  23. 04/16/2011

    Ilustrado! I’ve been toying with the idea of re-borrowing it from the library, because I want to give it another shot. But I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts first.

    All but 9 of the Borders stores in Sydney are closing down too, and it hasn’t even been around that long here! Shame. I never bought books there, though, because they’re so overpriced. I hear that even the markdown prices are way more expensive than other bookstores. Book Depository ftw! Hahaha

    p.s. I recently decided to read Graham because my lecturer mentioned A Quite American, and it’s set in Vietnam. I’m kind of going through a SE Asia phase at the moment. But yeah – wasn’t sure where to start with him. Any recommendations?

  24. 04/16/2011

    *Greene (lol I always think Graham is his last name for some reason)

  25. 04/16/2011

    *A Quiet American. Oh my gosh… sorry about the spammage!

  26. 04/17/2011

    @ JoV: It is now one of my book goals to collect all of Scarlett Thomas’s works – preferably in hardcover if I can. She is SO insanely smart and if they are all as pretty as Our Tragic Universe, how can I resist?
     
    @ Rebecca: I tend to find almost any stack of books irresistibly pretty, but I admit, it’s been a looooong time since so many new books have entered my apartment at once. I am a very happy camper!
     
    @ Kari: I agree that the B&N has far more prominence in the Cool Springs neighborhood… I really do like B&N, but I just wish I didn’t have to go all the way out there to enjoy them! Now it seems I’ll have no choice, since all of the West Nashville bookstores are closed… :(
    @ Jackie: I know that some of these books weren’t your cup of tea, but I am hoping I like them! We shall see…
     
    @ softdrink: Our Borders were always pretty quiet… perhaps a little too quiet it would seem. And you definitely get brownie points for buying books full price! You rock!
     
    @ Nadia: I was pretty much just hoping I met get one or two good deals, but didn’t expect to find so many books I just HAD to have. So glad to hear you liked The Unit! I think I’ll read it soon!

  27. 04/17/2011

    @ Erin: So jealous that you’ve been to India several times! It’s one of the places I’m so excited to visit one day… :D
     
    @ The Book Whisperer: At least the UK has Waterstone’s! I love browsing there whenever I visit, and have found many great books there!
     
    @ Matt: I am SO excited for this Saramago. I want to read everything he’s done, but this one in particular really appeals. I think it will be the next Saramago I read.
    And I remember how many great books you got during your Borders trip… I wish I had the room for the bookshelves! They were really a great deal! :D
     
    @ Tuesday: I’ve only read one Graham Greene: The End of the Affair, and I did review it on the site. I think you’d like it… it’s definitely one of those books I need to re-read, but was certainly very compelling. Not sure how representative it is compared to the rest of his fiction though. But I really do like GG, and I intend to collect all of his works!

  28. 04/18/2011

    The Borders near me in the UK closed down last summer and I got some books, but I was so sad to see it go. One of the best books stores we’ve had. I hear Waterstones is in trouble now …

  29. 04/18/2011

    I’m so happy to see Ilustrado there! I do hope you’ll like it. (Crossing fingers.) And happy for you that you found another Saramago and some Coetzees too! I’d love to read the Kesey. (I’m sure we had a copy of it in the house when I was growing up but I ignored it like forever.)

  30. 04/19/2011

    @ Nicola: I love Waterstones, but perhaps part of the appeal is that there aren’t any over here in North America so they really seem like a treat whenever I’m in the UK!
     
    @ kiss a cloud: I really think I will like Ilustrado… I’m so excited to read my first Filipino author! And of course, it is always a good thing when my Saramago and Coetzeee collections grow! :D

  31. Wow!! That’s a mind-blowing stack!!

    Diary of a Bad Year is my favourite Coetzee so far, and Summertime is awesome as well. Death at Intervals (or Death with Interruptions) is the only Saramago I’ve read, and I loved it as well.

    Enjoy – I’m slightly jealous.

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