accordioncrimesOver the weekend, I shopped at Books for America‘s amazing sale of used books. I’ll do a profile on Books for America (located in Washington DC) later, but it’s enough now to say that it’s a charity bookstore that has amazing prices.

And those amazing prices were half-off this past weekend. The hardcovers I bought were originally $4, marked down to $2. I bought six books for over $12 with tax! Incredible.

Two of the books weren’t first editions — I just wanted to have them. They were Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (which I have read before, though a long time ago) and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer, which I want to read eventually (though I might have to schedule that in 2011).

The others I bought because I suspected they might be first editions, and of course because I wanted to read them as well. I never buy books just for the potential value of them, because I’ll likely be wrong that the book’s a first edition and them I’m stuck with a book I don’t want. Those were Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver; Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx; Leap of Faith by Queen Noor; and The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike.

And of course, I came home and did my requisite Alibris analysis (checking to see what the market prices are for first editions). Alas, Accordion Crimes apparently had a limited edition run of 2500 signed copies, and my copy is not one of those. Who knew?! My copy does have a number line with a “1.” Judging from copies for sale on Alibris, I’d guess my copy is about $15. Pristine copies of the signed limited edition are listed for $200.

The Prodigal Summer is probably worth around $20, Leap of Faith isn’t really worth anything, and The Witches of Eastwick, because of the limited run of 250 printed by the Franklin Library (John Updike always does this), is worth around $10. I take into account the condition of the books when I make these estimations.

Checking the prices is just a fun exercise for me; I have no intention of turning around and trying to sell any books. Not anytime soon, anyway!

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Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth StroutYet more acclaim for Robert Bolano‘s 2666.

It made the National Book Critics Circle‘s list of finalists for its 2008 awards.

The other titles rounding out the finalists in the fiction category are Marilynne Robinson‘s Home; Aleksandar Hemon‘s The Lazarus Project; M. Glenn Taylor‘s The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart; and Elizabeth Strout‘s Olive Kitteridge.

Noticeably absent is Toni Morrison‘s A Mercy, which received lots of buzz last year — including a spot on both The New York Times‘ and The Washington Post‘s lists of top 10 books for 2008.

Click here for the rest of the finalists in the categories of poetry, criticism, biography, autobiography, and nonfiction.

barack_obama_reading1In the spirit of the inaugural celebration, here’s a post devoted to President-Elect Barack Obama’s love of reading. He himself has written two critically-acclaimed books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, attesting to his appreciation of the power of words.

Culled from a variety of sources (see some articles on the topic at the end of the post), here’s a list of some of the books that Barack Obama has voiced his appreciation for:

Fiction

Poetry

Nonfiction

And Barack Obama himself is no stranger to being a widely-read and renowned writer; his books spent time at the top of the New York Times’ bestseller list and a signed first edition copy of Dreams from My Father sold on Abebooks.com for $5,500.

To read more about Barack Obama’s literary tastes, read “Barack by the books” at Salon.com and “From books, new president found voice” at New York Times.

from WebUrbanist

Stacks of books everywhere. A jumbled mess of books toppling over on the shelves. There are better ways to display your books!

And there are more options than a traditional, orderly bookcase. I found this great post on WebUrbanist featuring creative ways to store books. Short on space? Make a staircase out of bookshelves! Hang them from hangers! Build a fort of books for your children to live in!

So maybe these examples of creative bookshelving aren’t all the most practical, but they’re pretty awesome. Check them out at WebUrbanist.

from Bookshelf

And while you’re at it, check out another blog entirely devoted to bookshelves, like the one pictured above. That’s right — all bookshelves, all the time. Bookshelf.

Dangerous Laughter, by Steven MillhauserI haven’t posted in a while — my negligence is a function of getting back into the swing of real life after the holidays. Real life is much busier than I remember it being.

I’m back in DC, and there two major news stories here. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen much else on the local news. 1) The inauguration is upon us, and that means crazy time here. 2) It is really freaking cold outside, which has a critical effect on news story #1.

Since the windchill today has been in the single digits, I’ve decided to shut myself indoors. I made myself a warm pot of jasmine green tea, curled up under a blanket, and savored the first two stories from Dangerous Laughter, by Steven Millhauser.

The two stories I read, especially the first, were wonderful. I usually don’t read short stories, but I’m finding that they offer quick, self-contained, and satisfying escapes from reality. And in the unwelcome busy-ness I’m finding myself in, that’s wonderful.

I’ll get back on track with my posts on book collecting soon.

From the novel I’m currently reading, Birds Without Wings by Louis des Bernieres. It’s about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, set in the early 20th-century, and promises to continue the beautiful epicness of des Bernieres that I last encountered in Corelli’s Mandolin.

Birds Without WingsThere comes a point in life where each one of us who survives begins to feel like a ghost that has forgotten to die at the right time, and certainly most of us were more amusing when we were young. It seems that age folds the heart in on itself. Some of us walk detached, dreaming on the past, and some of us realise that we have lost the trick of standing in the sun. For many of us the thought of the future is a cause for irritation rather than optimism, as if we have had enough of new things, and wish only for the long sleep that rounds the edges of our lives. I feel this weariness myself.

A History of ReadingIt may sound silly, but I really enjoy reading about reading. Perhaps I enjoy these types of books because they introduce the pleasure of reading through someone else’s eyes, or they push me to approach reading in a different way. Or maybe I just like the books because I love the subject so much.

Regardless, here are three very interesting reads on reading, and books.

On Writing and Reading

  • Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster — gleaned from Forster’s series of talks on such aspects as “The Plot” and “The Story,” the survey of novels is widely considered to a best nonfiction work of the 20th century
  • Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books…, by Francine Prose — she uses thought-provoking passages from Austen, Dostoevsky, le Carre, et al. to identify the elements that make great fiction
  • A History of Reading, by Alberto Manguel — a treasure trove of tid-bits related to the subject of reading throughout the ages, including personal stories and historical illustrations; a delight for any serious reader

Have any to add?