I haven’t mentioned the U.S in a while but with Christina’s timely reminder over our wanton amount of book buying, it brought back to mind this criminally half finished post that needed completing. Talking about, as it does, our copious volume purchasing adventures that eventually reached almost obscene proportions.
It’s an intimate thing as any book fan will tell you, the sharing of and buying of books for others, getting them into a book that has particularly touched you and that NEEDS to be read by everyone, in your very unbiased opinion.
For the books you keep for yourself but long to share with others, you know the ones, they have well-worn covers, the smooth nature of the words, polished by your eyes for they have been read so many times, the homely feel of them being the definitive version. These we hoard with a worrying amount of jealousy. Why mention them here? because we all have them and you are as guilty as me, that and I like to be fair to all sides in my musings but I digress as usual…
It is special indeed and something that e-readers can’t replicate. Couple that with the age and smell of a book and the way you see people holding a book, lovingly turning it over and flicking through pages as they tell you about it….it is indeed a magical sight to behold.
Venturing into American bookshops is a bit different from England as you would expect, firstly and I am not sure if this indicative of the US as a whole but all the bookshops had their own second hand sections, which does rob you guys over there of the joys of a whole building full of musty books, but you may have those as well, I really need to explore further.
Taking great delight in finding a full price book and then its nearly new (and cheaper!) counterpart is always a great hobby and one I feel we successfully mastered in the first of the four shops situated around Richland, however there was a blot on the horizon….the lack of a good travel section. I do not wish to moan at all, as there were enough good and great books in other genres to keep both of us amused and well…giddy in some instances but there are some great travel writers out there and to not give the public a chance to discover them is criminal…I did find myself wanting to shout ‘there are countries other than the US you know!’ but restrained myself for fear of being hounded out of town like you see on cowboy films.
I was interested in the differences between European and American books, besides spelling of course, I found that some books contain great swathes of white, margins, empty pages to excess and big fonts, it gave the impression that I was holding a book for a child. Not all books were like this thankfully, in fact a lot I came across weren’t which makes the trees happier I am sure, other than that the covers of some books, which I take to be the American specific editions (rather than general international editions) had more varied tactile covers, either really glossy or pleasingly dry, it was a touch sensation of polar proportions indeed.
This is not to say that there is anything really negative in my pickiness, although I prefer a non glossy cover so my finger marks don’t show up on it – you never know what the government can do with that – I’ve seen the Bourne films. One area in which America has Europe, well England at least, beat, is the covers, there are some wonderfully arty covers and a lot of them seem to be competitively priced with the usual coverings. Over here we would have to pay more for a jazzy cover so let the jealousy commence.
Inevitably some books had to be put back, there was much sulking and looks of a tortuous nature to be had, as many great writers had to be returned to the shelf for some other lucky reader to get their sticky paws on but such is the nature of life and of course guarantees many return visits to buy and find more treasures. Double pain came for me with the realisation that I could not take all of my purchases back home, so a few of mine own had to be left…for me to return to one day.
So whilst I helped procure Christina a library of 42 books, we both went down different routes, I settled for a more Magical Realism based route with Eco, Márquez and Calvino and Christina attacked Philosophy and also the Greco-Roman world with Livy, Plato, Apollonius and Herodotus. Here’s the final library with a few books I bought and brought from the UK, namely Aku-Aku and Love in the Time of Cholera.