Buying a Book, An Eccentric Way

27 May

Can it really be that hard to just go into a shop like a normal person and just pick up a book? I suspect most of you, like me have their own idiosyncracies when it comes to choosing which book you fancy buying.

First off, I refuse to internet shop as I don’t trust technology  and have a near obsessional worry about broken spines and creases etc.  Living in a market town you would assume we may at least have one decent market stall but alas no.

The closest bookshop within easy reach is probably Waterstones (having bought everything of quality WH Smiths had to offer, which after the Classics section doesn’t leave a lot to choose from), in Nottingham, although getting increasingly commercial these days,  I had to wait for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to die to get his book The Gulag Archipelago which I knew would be in stock to cash in on his memory. Cynical yes but still they have to make a profit at the end of the day I guess.

To start with I write a list of books I want, usually things added recently to the wish list or ones that have been on there for ages, then I plan my route through each floor (always missing the ground floor out to begin with) having memorised the layout long ago, each floor is sub categorised into genre, then subdivided again to an A-Z list of author or period/country for history etc.

It takes me forty minutes to travel on the bus and I spend no more than half an hour in Nottingham as I hate shopping, so in all 15 minutes making my purchases. After hunting through the list, if I have four books or less I will always head finally to the ground floor and seek out my ‘fall back’ authors: Calvino, Marquez, Remarche, Nemirovsky, Susan Hill and Orwell as their writing is of such a standard that I know I will be able to pick up a fantastic piece of literature from them. Fall back author is perhaps the wrong term on reflection.

It’s worth mentioning that as well as checking the spines and corners of the book and then running my fingers all over the cover to feel for creases, I also flick through the pages looking for anomalies, as I once had a copy of 2001: A Space odyssey that had pages 46-122 repeated twice and a lack of pages 123- 198. I couldn’t cope with that again.

If I forget my list I can usually be seen standing in the Art section flapping my arms because I can’t remember what I want and the only artist I ever want to buy a book on is never there (Caspar David Friedrich), fantastic doesn’t work on my phone and Amazon claims I have no wishlist so those options are always out. Eventually I am reduced to flitting between all the floors looking like a serious shoplifter.

Luckily second hand bookshops are a more placid affair without all the military precision. I am looking to be surprised by books I have never heard of or never expected to see, so I will spend ages routing through the piles. The older and more obscure the better, and that musty scent really should be bottled, i’d buy it.

Am I alone in my ways or does everyone else have certain ways of picking books?  My friends think i’m crazy for doing it this way so hopefully i’m not alone.  Next time I shall relate to you how I actually choose which book to read off of my to read pile and that’s probably not a normal way either…


Posted by on 27/05/2012 in Eccentricities


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8 responses to “Buying a Book, An Eccentric Way

  1. boomiebol

    27/05/2012 at 11:41

    I have to say that with books, I can shop on the internet, amazon has a wide selection, and i just discovered a few other sites…like thriftbooks. I like to go into bookshops to feel and smell the books :), but these days time is so hard to find…so when the need t feel books overtake me, I go to the library and roam around aimlessly lol


    • StetotheJ

      27/05/2012 at 17:21

      The internet does have a better choice in esoteric books, this is true, I just like to make sure I get the best I can for my money. Libraries are great, although they seem to have more and more computers in these days. I may have a wander in now though, and have a roam, just for you.


  2. Emily

    27/05/2012 at 12:51

    My husband and I love books and have a room full of them! (And we are running out of space anyway) We do have particular ways of going about buying them however. He hardly ever buys a book for full-price at a book store. Mostly he shops for used books on (only after reading reviews and deciding which is the best edition to buy). He also participates in some book swap websites such as Book Mooch. We love second hand book stores, but it is hard to find them where we live. I have been trying not to spend extra money on things, including books, so lately I have been getting many of the books I have been reading from the local library.


    • StetotheJ

      27/05/2012 at 17:24

      I used to do that, i’d start a book in the library and then when i got into it, go and buy it, but not so much full price. I am a sucker for cheap books and like you guys seriously running out of room. That’s a good point about editions though, I never used to give much thought but like buying a CD of classical music, the market is fraught with inferior copies.


  3. Sarah

    06/06/2012 at 21:27

    If you are shopping at Scarthin then The Book Shop, just up from Wirksworth Market Place, is also worth a look. The fiction section is small but the titles are selected for quality: I can always find something there.

    Aside: I am having trouble accessing your site when I hover over your name. It comes up as ‘bookmust’ and then WordPress gives me a warning that this is a trick…


  4. StetotheJ

    11/06/2012 at 07:37

    Thanks for letting me know about that i’ll get onto WordPress about it post haste. I’ll check The BooK Shop out, I do prefer my quality books to what i’m seeing on the bestseller lists these days.


  5. shiningstar85

    13/01/2014 at 17:30

    I also had a problem with WordPress yesterday telling me my account didnt exist. I mainly just order from amazon and like to look at the reviews as to content and condition. I like to get bargains too.


    • Ste J

      13/01/2014 at 17:49

      Sometimes WordPress can be a bit off…not sure why it glitches. It is rare though. Amazon is good, I am a traditionalist though and love to see things before I buy…I’m picky as well.



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