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4th February
written by Steph
To read makes our speaking English good!

Click for an up close & personal view of these beauties!

Just imagine this post's title sung to you by dancing hot dogs and bags of popcorn... At this point, I don’t think I really need to admit to all of you that I have a ridiculous book-buying habit.  I mean, that’s kind of old news.  Plus, it’s not like any of my fellow book lovers out there are going to judge me (harshly) for this kind of addictive behavior… right?  It’s not like it’s hurting anyone! For what it’s worth, I have instituted a policy that I am no longer allowed to go to McKay’s unless I’m bringing books/dvds/games to trade in for store credit.  So while I continue to accumulate books, I’m also forcing myself to get rid of books that I didn’t like all that much rather than just being a clutterbug.  And this new policy has also lightened the impact on my wallet, since on our last two trips I haven’t had to pay using “real” money for any of our purchases. Anyway, let’s get onto the loot!  This time we came away with 16 books, which came to a grand total of $33 (store credit).  Our most expensive book was, I think, $5, and our cheapest book came in at $1 (several books fell into this category). After the jump, in-depth analyses of the various columns and the books constituting them!
Wodehouse, Powers, Munro, Greer, & Nunez

Wodehouse, Powers, Munro, Greer, & Nunez

Jeeves in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse – Can you believe that I’ve never read any P.G. Wodehouse?  I know!  Crazy, right?  I’ve just never had any luck finding his books at the used bookstores (I suspect it’s because people love the books and therefore don’t want to get rid of them), so I’ve never gotten to find out what all the fuss is about.  But now, I will no longer be left in the dark!  I have no idea if this is the book I should kick things off with, but hey – used bookstore trawlers can’t be choosers. Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers – It’s a book about a cognitive neurologist and a writer who devise a neural network that they train to pass an English literature comp exam… with unpredictable results!  How could I, of all people, not pick this one up? Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro – I know, I don’t like short stories, but I had a good run with Unaccustomed Earth (in the sense that I was able to read the whole thing), so I thought I’d give some other collections a go.  I chose Munro’s last work, because she was considered the mistress of the short story and I figured I might as well read the best of the best.  I’ve only read one of her stories previously, and that was when I was in Grade 11 English class.  It was called “How I Met My Husband”, and all I’ll say is that I normally am terrible when it comes to predicting twists and outcomes for movies and books, but I totally called how this one would end.  I am actually really looking forward to reading this collection. The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer – The hubbub of Benjamin Button has apparently piqued my interest in backwards ageing stories.  I had heard about this one back in the day before I heard about Benjamin Button, and had always wanted to read it.  It was on the bargain shelf, and at $1, I knew that now was finally my chance. The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez – I actually didn’t know too much about this one except that the Girl Detective compared it to Allegra Goodman’s Intuition (a book I loved) in her 2006 year end review (can you believe I still remember that?!?) and tipped her hat in favor of Nunez rather than Goodman.  If I like this one half as much as I did Intuition, then it will be money well spent.
Winterston, Lanchester, Willett, Hooper, Portis & Wiggins

Winterston, Lanchester, Willett, Hooper, Portis & Wiggins

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterston – I know very little about Winterston except that she is a lesbian.  Curious (heh), I picked this one up on a whim, but I found the writing on the first page to be so dazzlingly beautiful I decided I wanted – no! needed – to read more.  Into the basket it went. The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester – Tony picked this one up because the cover features this amazingly realistic portrait of a peach, done by one of those old Dutch masters.  We had actually seen this painting in the flesh when we were in D.C., which was pretty cool.  Also cool is the premise of the book, which sounds like it has to do with some guy who is possibly a food critic, but by the end of the book a slightly more sinister twist is revealed (or so the dust cover would have us believe).  We decided there was no reason for this fruit to be forbidden, and took a chance that this would be something either of us would enjoy. Jenny & the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett – Remember how I am not a short story reader but I still persist in purchasing short story collections?  What’s up with that?  I really can’t say, but we have another book by Willett here at home (unread, naturally), and by all accounts (other than ours), she is hilarious and a writer to treasure.  So I decided to buy her collection of stories, because who knows, maybe 2009 will be the year I discover that my love for short stories is so secret that even I didn’t know about it until now! A Child’s Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper – Straight up, this was an impulse purchase.  We got to McKay with 2 hours to spare before closing, which I assumed would be enough time, but then I totally had to rush through letters D through A (I decided to go in reverse alphabetical order this time, in order to give the latter half of the alphabet their due… they always get shafted on these expeditions) in the last 15 minutes.  I figured this book has a 50-50 chance of either being great or of being terrible, and I decided that I would risk the $1.50 to find out.  It is set in Australia and is the (fictional) account of some adulteress-y woman’s affair with a married man… but by using animals?  And maybe the man’s wife dies, hence the true crime moniker?  I was frazzled!  And like I said: 50-50 chance of sucking.  But if there is just one marsupial it might all just be worthwhile! True Grit by Charles Portis – Tony picked this up, largely for the blurb on the back cover in which a reviewer says most writers are untalented but Portis is a real talent… or at least this is what I like to believe.  I don’t know.  He says he wanted to read it because it has a famous character named “Rooster” Cogburn in it, but I’ve never heard of this character before, so I’m not sure just how famous he can really be… The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins – So, apparently I also have this habit of purchasing multiple books by an author before actually bothering to sit down and read any of them, and this book here is just another example of this nasty little vice of mine.   I remembered that this book was featured in last year’s Tournament of Books, and while I haven’t been having all that much luck with this year’s books, I had some luck with last year’s books.  Also, from having flipped through the other book by Wiggins that I own, I get the sense the lady knows how to write.  I fully admit that I didn’t even flip this one over to see what it was about before putting it in my cart (which has proven ill-advised in the past, such as in the case when I purchased a book about Orthodox Jews due to such perfunctory browsing).  Also?  It was $1.
Shriver, Wolff, Rohmer, Xingjian, & Seth

Shriver, Wolff, Rohmer, Gao, & Seth

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – I’ve never read any of Shriver’s stuff before, but I read a review on Books I Done Read that suggested that although the writing might be a tad tortuous, the story itself was pretty creepy and a definite page-turner.  Her other book, The Post-Birthday World, is also supposed to be an engaging read.  This is the one book by Shriver that was available, so this is the one I bought. Old School by Tobias Wolff – Set in a boarding school (another one of my vices, I suppose) and involving a literary contest, this one has been on my wishlist for a while.  I hope it doesn’t disappoint. The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer – Straight up, Tony and I sometimes try to “out bad book” each other when we’re at McKay’s, which essentially entails the two of us reading out or selecting atrociously entitled books from the shelves and proffering them to the other.  I initially picked this one up for this reason, but then as Tony read the back to me, I realized it could be one of those awesome “so bad, it’s good” finds.  Furthermore, I expect a lot of off color (pun intended?) humor and stereotypes of ill taste that are decidedly not PC due to the 1913 printing date on this one. Soul Mountain by Gao Xiangjian – I would never have picked this book up had it not been for Tuesday over at Tuesday in Silhouette talking about it over at her blog.  In all honesty, I would never have known this book existed had it not been for Tuesday, so there’s that too.  There’s also the issue of Tuesday not really knowing what to make of this book, and I’m not sure that I will either, but as I wrote there, I will be optimistic in my belief that the right time will come when I am ready to read this book.  And when it does, I will be happy that I bought it for just $2! A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – By all accounts, this is a great book.  It’s also a really long book.  It’s almost like I went overboard in trying to find an Indian writer who’s the antithesis of Jhumpa Lahiri or something… I read one review that likened this book to something Jane Austen would write, and it would appear that’s all the endorsement it takes in order for me to consider a book worthy of my time (a WHOLE lot of time). Not sure which of these I’ll tackle first.  After all, I’ve got plenty of other books from previous plunderings that remain to be read!  Still, it’s nice to know these will be waiting for me whenever I should get to them.  Have any of you read any of these?  If so, what did you think?  Any suggestions for what I should bump up my queue?


  1. 02/04/2009

    Steph, this is such a delicious post!! I enjoyed it a lot! I do believe we booklovers get the same satisfaction out of hoarding books as fashionistas do about bags and shoes haha.

    I have never read any Wodehouse either! Even though it’s been years since I’ve been meaning to. And I was laughing when you said: ‘but hey – used bookstore trawlers can’t be choosers.’ I can so relate and tend to pick up books that aren’t on my reading list just ’cause those in my reading list aren’t available in the used bookstores.

    Out of your lot, I’ve only read three: Soul Mountain, which I loved despite–no, not despite rather because of–its ambiguousness (but you already knew that).

    Written on the Body I read when I was a teenager and infatuated so that was something I really related to as well. I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s a poetic book. 🙂

    A Suitable Boy.. ahh.. on my top list for sure! If it wasn’t so very long I would be rereading and rereading it. It is very reminiscent of Austen, true. The length matters not on this one when you start reading. It pulls you in and for something so long it never gets boring. I think Tuesday has a review of this one as well and I think I felt the same way as what she wrote there too. I read this years ago but still vivid in my mind. Don’t know if that’ll make you want to bump it up onto the top of your stack but I won’t mind if you read Wodehouse first.. I’m looking to see how you’ll like it.

    Yesterday I also went on a visit to a used bookstore in a nearby town (no used in our town where we moved just over a year ago). So I got:

    Slowness-Milan Kundera (and we were just talking about him over at Tuesday’s haha).
    Everyman-Philip Roth (I intend to buy every Roth I find from now on).
    Mister Pip-Lloyd Jones (because it’s about Great Expectations lol!).
    On Chesil Beach-Ian McEwan (have read it before from the library but loved so much that I needed my own copy).

    So.. enjoy your great loot and happy reading!

  2. 02/04/2009

    Claire, I haven’t read any of the ones you just picked up, but have read other things by two of the four authors (I have The Human Stain by Roth sitting in my ever increasing pile of books to read). I’ve heard mixed things about Chesil Beach, which made me think that I might not like it, but perhaps I should reconsider that stance!
    I am looking forward to all three titles you’ve previously read, and I am also excited to have my first Wodehouse experience. It’s the first time I’ve found one of his books in an acceptable condition in a used bookstore.
    It’s interesting what you say about hoarding books – I had a friend who once told me that she thought I got as much pleasure from merely planning on reading books (which involves both making lists and then acquiring said books on the lists) as I do from actually reading them. I think she was probably correct in that evaluation!

  3. 02/04/2009

    Wow! You made some great finds! Some of your picks have been living on my shelves for while, but haven’t been read yet. However, I have read A Suitable Boy, and thought that while most of it was great, the political parts lost me, and I ended up skipping those sections. Also, you can never go wrong with a Jeeves book. I have read quite a few of those, and they have been absurdly funny. I have also heard that The Debt to Pleasure is a fabulous book and have been wanting to read it for quite some time. Happy reading!!

  4. 02/04/2009

    ‘I had a friend who once told me that she thought I got as much pleasure from merely planning on reading books (which involves both making lists and then acquiring said books on the lists) as I do from actually reading them. I think she was probably correct in that evaluation!’
    The same probably goes for me, too!
    Btw, while I loved the beginning of Written on the Body, I sort of drifted through the end and I don’t mean to say it isn’t good but that I wasn’t paying attention, so it didn’t make that much of an impression on me overall.
    Guess what, I just came back from the library and acquired 5 more books, well, for 50 cents each.. who can resist? Hehehe..

  5. 02/04/2009

    Ziblee, I’m glad to hear that there is no “right” Jeeves & Wooster book to start with! I make no promises, but I just might try that one next.
    Claire, exactly! At 50 cents, you’d be a fool not to pick up any book that struck your fancy!

  6. 02/05/2009

    Of course we won’t judge you harshly- we’re all similarly afflicted!

    I discovered Alice Munro for myself last year, and had to read as much by her as a I could get my hands on. I hope you share the pleasure.

    I enjoyed Old School and A Child’s Book of True Crime and will be interested to hear what you think.

    As for Winterson, I’ve just read Sexing the cherry by her which was beautifully written if sometimes bewildering. I want to read more of her novels soon.

  7. 02/06/2009

    Sarah, I am all for reading novels where I luxuriate in the writing but kind of have no idea what the heck is going on! I find those are the ones I naturally flag to go back and re-read as I know that both the writing AND the story will hold up to another read.
    I am not sure which short story collection I will tackle next (or when I’ll do so!), but I fully know that Munro is recognized to be the queen of this sort of thing. I must admit, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth collection has really caused me to want to explore other short story collections a little bit more so that I can get a sense of whether she’s really so remarkable as the critics say! 😉 I am pretty confident that I will be able to find collections that I enjoy more.
    I’m so glad you’ve read the True Crime book and enjoyed it! I really just decided to wing it in the cart at the last minute but was uncertain about whether it would actually be good, so now I feel a little bit better about that hasty purchase!

  8. 02/08/2009

    What a great haul! I haven’t heard of most of these and can’t wait for your reviews.

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