The Sunday Salon: Book Shopping

Yesterday, I went to Books-a-Million to pick through the clearance section like a particularly determined vulture, as is my wont. To my great delight, I found The Kiss Murder, the first book in a mystery series I want to read. (I know mystery and I have a tenuous relationship, but the protagonist is a Turkish drag queen who knows Thai kickboxing. How can I not read that?) Since I knew it probably wasn’t in any of the library systems available to me and the price was good, it came home with me.

This is remarkably different from how I bought books when I was a wee lass. In middle school, my friends usually exchanged gift cards to Books-a-Million for the holidays and for birthdays. A ten dollar gift card was enough to get you the next volume of whatever manga you were following. (My manga series was Yu-Gi-Oh!, which would have been a nice tale of nerd friendship if that card game hadn’t gotten so popular and taken over.) I didn’t get much of an allowance, so books came to me either by using a gift card or begging my parents. My only criterion to buy a book was whether I was interested or not–I discovered American Gods, one of my favorite novels, this way, and I was over the moon to discover a box set of His Dark Materials. While I was very lucky and ended up with plenty of lovely books, I realized that this was a very haphazard way to do things during high school–especially with libraries available at every turn, and thrift stores brimming with cheap copies of books.

These days, I try to only buy a book if I know I’ll like it, like a Neil Gaiman novel, or if I want to add it to my library. I’m making an effort to make a very clear distinction between things I want and things I need. While I consider books a necessity and not a luxury, I try to use libraries as much as humanly possible. This isn’t to say that I don’t daydream about my fabulous library that I’ll have someday, with beautiful copies of my favorite books and a nice, cushy armchair to read in. But the way I shop for books has definitely changed since I was a little. I don’t make impulse purchases at full retail price anymore, but I certainly do when I’m picking through a thrift store’s bookshelf.

In other news, I’m heading back to school today, after a very relaxing spring break, despite the Martian Death Flu I had at the beginning of the week. (My poor mother caught it, so she’s not feeling so hot right now.) I haven’t read and watched as much as I wanted to over the week, although I did see Alice in Wonderland, which I’m going to review here, and Beloved just got better. I’ve also been watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is quite wonderful–while it’s definitely aimed at eighth graders, it doesn’t talk down to its audience, which makes it suitable for everybody.

And, just because it makes me giggle and it’s technically book-related, I leave you with this video. The opening cracks me up every single time, although it sort of peters out towards the end.

How do you buy books?

18 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Book Shopping

  1. I kinda went nuts with the book-buying this week, after hitting a lovely used book store in New Orleans (Baudolino, by the divine Umberto Eco) and a pair of Barnes & Nobles in Atlanta and Philadelphia (The Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, Vol. 1; and a pair of Moleskeins).
    I am very cautious about buying books new; my mother ingrained the belief that if it’s a classic, or at least not brand-new, then there’s probably a perfectly good used copy floating around somewhere. If it’s used, of course, I have no qualms or Buyer’s Remorse.

  2. My book-buying habits are exactly the same as when I was little, except that I no longer need a ride to the bookshops. When I have gift cards, I save them and save them until I’ve decided on the perfect books to buy; and no matter what, I only buy books that I am reasonably confident of liking. Especially now that Barnes & Noble has changed their return policies: it’s 14 days with receipt or no return. Sad.

  3. When buying books, I always look for the one that catches my eye. If and when pick it up and it seems to have a nice storyline; I’ll buy it. Yes, this might not be the most wise way to choose a book, but I have found some very good ones this way. Sure, I’m a poor college student and should learn to spend my money more wisely, but psh…like that’ll happen.

  4. Like you, I try to use libraries as much as possible, especially now that I work part-time at our local library. However, once in a while like last week, I do buy books that I want to add to my collection. Last week it was The Complete Sherlock Holmes, which I really couldn’t pass up. Okay, I could, but I know it’s a series to which I’ll be returning and it might take a little time to read so even though I can keep books out almost forever now since I work at the library without having to pay any fines, I thought I wouldn’t deprive others of the opportunity to get to know Holmes and Watson.

    • It’s very good, and it’s really refreshing to see fantasy that’s not based on European mythology or medieval Europe. Unfortunately, the film’s casting is just really problematic (two white kids for the Inuit characters, Paramount? Really?), so I’ll be boycotting it, but I hope, despite its problems, it’ll be an enjoyable film for you.

  5. I love buying from the library used sales. I can get really lovely books for brilliantly low prices. I also tend to get lots of book gift cards. However, I now try to be more careful about buying books. I usually just get classics now or fantasy books that I know I’ll love.

    And I like the Avatar series but I shudder at the casting of the movie. 😦

  6. I usually have a list in mind when I head to the bookstore. When I go in without the list, I buy way too many books. Since mid-last year, I’ve cut back on the buying and have been living on the borrowing. Our book cases can’t take anymore and I’m running out of places to stack books. I’ve tried to convince my husband that we need more shelves but he always pretends not to hear me. 🙂 I have a few gift cards and I did buy one book today but I really do try to keep it to one or two purchases a month now. I plan to purchase a lot more ebooks this year though now that I have my Nook.

    That video is hysterical!

  7. I’ll be looking for your review of Kiss Murder! Sounds crazy. 🙂

    I don’t really buy books anymore (except an occassional $5 bag sale from my Friends of the Library), and I don’t miss it. I just don’t feel the need to own a lot of books, as long as I have a library. I was digigng through my archives & found a post from 2007 when I said the same thing! lol Maybe it comes from moving a lot? The beginning of that Kung Fu video was hilarious.

    • Crazy awesome. I’ve got a lot of books I’m reading before it, but I can’t wait.

      Yeah, libraries are just so amazing that you don’t need to buy books- but it’s not like that’ll ever stop me, heh. And I don’t know if it’s a moving thing. My dad certainly moved around a lot, but his rooms are overflowing with books.

  8. I have a love affair with books. I love the way they look, I love the way they feel in my hands, and I love the way they smell. I like being the first to crack a spine, and while I don’t mind borrowing books from the library, the whole having to return the book after 3 weeks doesn’t work for me. I think of books as my one vice. Knitters have scads of yarn that they compulsively buy, scrapbookers have loads of paper and supplies that they *might* use someday, etc. Oftentimes having a hobby means collecting something, and I choose to collect books. I’ll admit that I don’t buy as many books as I might like, but I do make a point of buying a book or two any time I go to a book signing. I’m pretty careful about what I buy new, though. 🙂

    • There’s nothing wrong with that! I love how books feel and smell as well, but I just don’t have the money to read as much as I do! And I almost always buy something at signings as well (although I came prepared for that Neil Gaiman signing in December).

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