Three cheap ways to become a bookaholic

After counting and doing a recount I have 234 unread books; 133 of the old fashioned kind, hardback and paperback and 81 21st century e-books. And I accumulated these books quite cheaply. And I have my eye on “The Autobiography of Mark Twain, volume 1” for $2 and an American Heritage book of the Civil War; pictures, illustrations, with words from Bruce Catton and James McPherson for $3. If you love books, here are my legitimate secrets. And I am not talking about Goodwill, yard sales, and the like.

  1. In Western Washington, the Timberland Library has a section where customers can buy books. Paperbacks $1 and hardbacks generally $2. It raises money for the library and therefore you are doing a good thing. I don’t know what happens in other libraries, in other states or regions, but check with your local library. I have found classics like “Madame De Lafayette” by The Princess De Cleves, as well as books from Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, J.A. Jance, and some terrific non-fiction books like “The Oxford History of the Classical World.” The Friends of the Library raises money for the library and once a year they have a sale. I bought ten hardbacks for $2.25 and came back after 3 o’clock when everything was half priced and bought more books. And the day before the sale there was a box and two small bins that had free books. I took ten and they were from well known writers. One was a 1951 Dell paperback edition of Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural” and the cover was priceless, the condition quite good. Over those two days, including the free books I came away with 28 books, spending less than $4 and two bags of VHS tapes that they gave away for nothing, it being after 3 o’clock and they wanted to get rid of them. All were popular and classic films.
  2. In Olympia, Washington, and there may be one near you, is Half Price Books. They also have record albums, DVD’s, and classic comic books. The condition of their books  are better than what you might find at the library and once a year they have a sale where all books are $1.00. It is here I bought two Don DeLillo books, two early Michael Crichton books written under the name of John Lange, now published in the Hard Crime series, a great collection if you like crime noir and pulp fiction. I also purchased an Elmore Leonard, a P.D. James, among other books. They have other specials during the week, but this is one sale you never miss.
  3. Turning to e-Books there are many subscription services that send you daily emails where you can get e-Books from free to $2.99 and these e-Books, in the case of BookBub, are from well know writers. With BookBub you select the type of books you want, such as mystery, historic non-fiction, science fiction, horror, romance, whatever you desire.

The problem I face, and perhaps some of you as well, is that purchasing outgrows your reading. This is how I now have 234 unread books. Remember I never said you have to read any of them. I have read one since I reached 234, that being “The Ghost Writer” and am close to finishing James Patterson’s “Swimsuit.” So you can imagine with two books gone I will be getting itchy eyes for some more choices to read. I guess the Twain biography and the Civil War book may be added by days end.

If you have some cheap ways to get books please mention in the comment section. Not just for me, but for other bookaholics.

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Three books you should read and why

The following three books are non-fiction and are about three historical people, all of whom were adventurous. It is not that you should read these books to learn about these people, but you should read them because each writer transports you to another place and time; in fact, you could say, each writer takes you to another world. Just like fiction, just like fantasy, except these stories are real. History does not have to be dry. These writers make history come alive.

Take for Example “Black Count” by Tom Reiss. If you have read “The Three Musketeers” you are familiar with Alexandre Dumas. No, this book is not about him, it is about his father General Alex Dumas, a black slave who rose to a generalship in France, unheard of in his day. At one time he outranked Napoleon, but we know being outranked never stopped Bonaparte. When reading about General Dumas’ adventurous life, the battles, the campaigns, and getting imprisoned, you can see where his son got the role model for some of his fictional characters. Not only did General Dumas have a swashbuckling life, but he was a great leader and soldier. All I can do is tell you about him, but Reiss, in his book, makes General Dumas come alive, just as he makes the time in which Dumas lived come alive. And by the way Reiss won the Pulitzer Prize.

Another Pulitzer winner was Stacy Schiff who won for her book on the wife of the great writer Vladimir Nabokov called “Vera.” The book of hers I read which could have won the Pulitzer had I been voting is “Cleopatra.” The first femme fatale may have been Eve, who hung out with serpents, ate forbidden fruit, and deceived her husband in the process, but she had nothing on Cleopatra. Cleo must have had charisma, cunning, ambition, and smarts to seduce world leaders like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, and though we know little of how she looked, she did have a big nose-check out her profile on ancient coins, she had to have had a captivating personality. But all of that takes second place to the time and place in which Schiff takes you. I read this book over a year ago and I can still see the main street in Alexandria in which Schiff describes animals, like elephants, being paraded down the wide avenue where vendors on both sides sold everything you need or want, one giant farmer’s market, and the description of Alexandria and the people who lived there, including a Jewish section, and you can see why the city was the New York of the ancient world.

The third book is “Rebel Yell,” by S.C. Gwynne. It is about Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. Talk about a complex man. He was considered, when teaching at VMI, a bit of a loser, both by students and faculty. Students made fun of him, the faculty ignored him. He was a private person, walked funny, his cap down to his eyes, prayed everyday, near fanatical about religion, talked little, and definitely not a people person. So how do you explain his brilliant tactics during the Civil War, who became a hero to the Confederacy for his beating Union generals. Of course it is true many of the Union generals like McClellan were timid, but Jackson was still brilliant. And can you imagine this. A group of Union prisoners being marched down a southern street and when seeing Jackson riding towards them on horseback, broke away from their march and went up to Jackson and cheered him. It is one thing to be a hero to those who support you, but when does the enemy cheer a general on the other side. It was not an isolated incident. There is so much to learn in this book about the Civil War, things I never knew before and once again the theme is carried out in that you are transported to another time and place.

What I saw in these books were the snow in the alps as Dumas marched into battle; I saw the sand in the Egyptian desert through the eyes of both Dumas and Cleopatra; I saw battles, the horrors of the Civil War; I saw Cleopatra and Anthony plotting on a ship after a great feast; I saw conflicted people. These books appear to be biographies, but they are books of adventure that fiction writers could only hope to write.