Mimsy: Books

An I-35 book drive—Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
Fletcher’s Books and Antiques

Fletcher’s doesn’t have the best selection of the bookstores I visited, but it is by far the coolest to browse in.

There’s nothing like a day spent browsing dusty tomes in hidden libraries. Getting a little antsy last week, I decided to drive up I-35 and visit some bookstores in Waco that I hadn’t been to in about two years. I also had a gift certificate for Cabela’s—about two years old—and there were some bookstores, as well as a barbecue place, in Salado, Belton, and Temple that I had bookmarked in Yelp but never visited.

I would have gone Monday, but one of the bookstores isn’t open Mondays, so I went on Thursday. The first bookstore I went to, Fletcher’s in Salado, is also an antique store. While the books are a bit tattier the setting is the coolest of them all. The books are shelved amongst the antiques, so you’re looking around old grandfather clocks, busts, and lights. I picked up a Thomas Sowell book there.

Next up, in Belton, I stopped at the McWha Book Store, where I found a book that’s been on my list possibly longer than any other book currently on it.

In Temple, The Book Cellar is actually down stairs and into a basement, and it sells both books and comic books. Another out-of-print book on my list showed up there, this time a C.L. Moore paperback.

I was pretty sure I’d find something nice at Golden’s Book Exchange and at Brazos Books in Waco, as I’d already been to them, and they both have a nice selection. Thanks to Brazos, it looks like I’m going to be reading Tim Powers’s fault lines series in reverse order, something that seems to be becoming a habit of mine. And it turned out Golden’s had a half-off sale starting on Thursday, unbeknownst to me, which meant that their half cover price was really a quarter of cover price. Yet another book on my list showed up there, making this an especially lucky trip, as well as a Sarah Hoyt sequel I didn’t even known existed.

Georgetown, Texas: Second-Hand Prose—Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
Second Hand Prose

The Georgetown Public Library’s books-for-sale area is very well organized and, for a public library bookstore, comprehensive.

In the Georgetown Public Library is a Friends of the Library book sale that could almost double as an actual bookstore. The first time I went, I picked up several hard-to-find items from my list, including Michael Moorcock’s The Stealer of Souls. It’s also where I discovered Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy.

The second time I went, I picked up two of the Best American Short Story collections. I’ve been reading a bunch of these this year, after picking up the Salman Rushdie one at a big warehouse sale in 2015.

This may be the best library book nook I’ve been to. If you’re on a book tour of central Texas, the second best is about ten minutes further south at the Round Rock Public Library. Besides both having great used book sale areas, both are very nice libraries.

Second-Hand Prose is on the second floor of the library; if you feel like relaxing with your purchases, there is a nice coffeeshop on the first floor, with indoor and outdoor tables.

Second-Hand Prose
402 W 8th St.
Georgetown, Texas

Feb. 28, 2018

Tehanu Ursula K. Le Guin $1.25 mass market paperback
The Joy of Hate Greg Gutfeld $3.75 hardcover

Oct. 24, 2016

The Best American Short Stories 2005 Katrina Kenison, Michael Chabon $1.00 trade paperback
The Best American Short Stories 2009 Alice Sebold, Heidi Pitlor $1.00 trade paperback

May 7, 2015

Fifth Avenue Books closing—Friday, February 17th, 2017
Fifth Avenue Books

Sadly, only a few months after I wrote this review, it looks like Fifth Avenue Books is about to close its doors. Apparently, it “has been losing money for several years, most recently about $1,000 a week” and will close at the end of this month.

That’s too bad, and I worry it will affect Bluestocking Books as well: the existence of two good bookstores across the street from each other is one of the reasons I always hit this area when I visit San Diego. Apparently, according to the article, they’ve already used crowdfunding once to stay open.

I disagree with this from the article:

Used bookstores are in some ways the unwanted stepchild of the publishing industry. The only one who makes any money when a used book is sold is the seller—not the author, not the publishing house, not the printer.

The existence of a used-book market is an incentive to buy new books. Just as the existence of a used-car market is an incentive to buy new cars: because the purchaser knows they can recoup a small amount of their money later if they wish. The existence of a used-item market is very important for items that get cycled through regularly, as many do with cars, and most do with books: even those of us who have lots of books eventually run out of room and need to consolidate our library. Just knowing that I don’t have to dispose of my unused books by trashing them is a benefit.

And of course many times we’ll read a book and realize we’re never going to read it a second time. This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid ebooks: there is no easy used ebook market.

According to the store’s Facebook page, they currently have books at 80% off and there’s an “employee anti-starvation fund” you can donate to.

Pryor Oklahoma: The Book Exchange on Highway 69—Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

When I’m traveling, I often check multiple map applications to find the best route (which undoubtedly confuses Navigon, the navigation app I actually use en route). For traveling northeast from Round Rock to St. Louis or Michigan, this meant discovering the quicker Highway 69 instead of the bigger Highway 44 that my navigation app wants me to use to get across Oklahoma from Texas. Highway 69 is not only faster, but it’s also more interesting.

Book-wise, hidden a quick one block off of 69 in Pryor is The Book Exchange. Pryor is about ten miles north of Chouteau, where I often stop for food at either the Dutch Pantry or the Amish Cheese Shop. The former is a nice meat-and-potatoes place and the latter a nice sandwich shop and they’re both about halfway to St. Louis.

But while there are a lot of food options available on Highway 69—including in Pryor, and I’ll have to try some of them now that I’m stopping there all the time for books—there are very few bookstores, at least as far as I can tell. There’s a Hastings in Muskogee, but it didn’t have much in the way of books when I went there a few years ago.1 The Book Exchange is a real oasis on this route. Its only real drawback is that it’s a haggling-style store: most books don’t have prices, so you’ll need to ask for an offer and then decide if it’s worthwhile to buy at that price, make a counter-offer, or just put the book back. But so far the prices (as you can see) have been quite reasonable.

They have a nice selection of fiction, including thrillers/mysteries and science fiction/fantasy, and much more. As you can see from the list of books I’ve picked up here over my last two trips, I’ve found some nice older science fiction paperbacks. I’d been meaning to read Clifford D. Simak’s City for quite a while and bit because of the neat old dog-man-robot cover painting. And earlier, I picked up my first Clark Ashton Smith book here, which was disappointing only in the sense that I hadn’t read it decades earlier!

Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo is closing—Friday, December 30th, 2016
Final haul from Bay Leaf Books

Latest haul from Bay Leaf Books.

I stopped into Bay Leaf Books over the holidays when I was traveling in Michigan, and discovered that they’ll be closing in “late January or February” 2017, due to health issues. If you’ve been meaning to visit, now is the time.

As you can see from the list of books I bought in December on the original review they still have a great selection—and I didn’t take their only copy of some of those books.

They’ve been a very nice place to visit when I wander up that way; it’ll be sad to see them go, as there aren’t many, if any, good bookstores in the area. Even the Newaygo Public Library’s book sale has closed, although perhaps only temporarily. Like most of the “bookstores less traveled” it was basically run by one person, and that person died. (If you live in the area and you want to see it re-open, consider volunteering.)

At the time I went, Bay Leaf was discounting their books 40%, or 20% for special display items. I don’t know if that’s going to change, as their web site says they’ll continue to sell online and at special events.

And don’t pass up the opportunity to visit any of the bookstores I highlight on The bookstores less traveled. As sad as it is to see a bookstore go, most, if not all, of them are run by one or two people. They will close down sooner or later. Give them your business now to increase the chances that it will be later.

Champaign, Illinois: Orphans Treasure Box—Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Orphans Treasure Box

The storefront is easy to miss, and there’s not a lot else around.

So far I’ve only purchased one book from this bookstore—which means I’ve spent a total of twenty-five cents there. I’m not sure how often I’ll get back to it, either. I don’t often go through Champaign, Illinois. It will depend, I suppose, on whether I need to continue avoiding the traffic on the Illinois section of I-80.

Mind you, that one book was one of the better ones in the Three Investigators series. So chances are I’ll figure a way to pass by here again.

The bookstore is the outlet store of the charity’s Amazon storefront. According to their web site and the flyers in the store, the charity is focused on orphans, and especially on finding them homes and making sure that the people who take them in are supported.

When I pulled up, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. I came up a county road into a dusty lot that seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Pioneer Street is one lone block and appears to be some sort of warehouse district. It isn’t: Google Maps shows lots of businesses around that street but nothing particularly on it.

The bookstore itself is clean, organized, and filled with books. Which is what you want in a bookstore. If you’re traveling east/west on 74, or even north/south on 57 as I was, it’s worth checking out.

Orphans Treasure Box
826 Pioneer Street
Champaign, Illinois

Aug. 23, 2016

The Mystery of the Screaming Clock Robert Arthur $0.25 mass market paperback
The Levenger Ambi Folio—Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Levenger Ambi Folio at lunch

A composition notebook fits perfectly; the Ambi was a great companion at the Colorado BlogCon in 2011. This may have been the first serious use I put it to.

Sometime in 2010 I started thinking seriously about getting a good folio. I was tired of making do with cheap pieces of junk that cracked, didn’t work well with my writing tools, and that seemed to be designed more for kids than for writers.

I wanted something that could handle an iPad without the iPad sliding out, keep loose papers together, and hold a notepad for writing by hand—preferably a classic marble-cover composition book. I also wanted it to hold at least one pen. Preferably two, because at the time I had not yet found the Space Pen.

And, at the same time, I needed it to be relatively compact and easy to carry around—the whole point of a folio is to be able to take it to the park or a bar or the library, somewhere to write.

It took several months, but I finally settled on the Levenger Ambi, waited for a good sale, and ordered it in November 2011. It’s exactly what I was looking for. The overall folio zippers shut, so that anything inside, such as an iPad or loose papers, does not fall out. It has space for two pens, one on the top and one on the bottom of the left side1 . It has three different-sized pockets on the left. One works great for cards, one for large tickets or receipts, and one for full-sized writing paper.

It has a space to slide in the back cover of a notebook, so that I can slide composition books into it horizontally. It also can take writing pads that slide in vertically, if you prefer. I haven’t used one since I finished up the one that came with the folio.

And it has a zippered compartment for especially important things such as a passport or checkbook. I rarely carry such things in my folio, but when I do, the inner zipper ensures they don’t fall out when I unfold the folio. More often, the zippered compartment carries extra camera cards, adapters for the iPad for reading camera cards, and rulers or even a bit of extra cash.

The Best of Henry Kuttner—Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
The Best of Henry Kuttner

While I have been a fan of Lewis Carroll for slightly longer than I’ve been a fan of Henry Kuttner (or Lewis Padgett, as I knew him—and his wife and co-author, C. L. Moore—when), my blog isn’t named only after Lewis Carroll’s nonsense rhyme from Through the Looking Glass. It’s also inspired by Kuttner’s most famous short story, about an educational toy that taught too much.

Kuttner, in a Douglas Adams-like twist, surreptitiously purloined Carroll’s poem and turned Carroll into the one doing the copying—it’s amazing what you can do with time travel.

I probably read the story first in the amazing Science Fiction Hall of Fame collection edited by Robert Silverberg. Unless you are extremely well read in early science fiction, that collection is strongly recommended. It contains some of the best and most influential short stories of pre-Nebula years of science fiction, from 1929 to 1964. Besides being an education in great science fiction, it will give you a great idea of who from that era you will enjoy reading further.

I, unfortunately, didn’t see much Kuttner afterward; he died in 1958 so that by the time I started reading science fiction his books were too old-hat to show up in the local supermarket, my only source of books outside the library—which itself had only a handful of science fiction books.

Thanks to used bookstores, I’ve since managed to pick up most of the Ballantine/Del Rey best of collections from the seventies, and recently found The Best of Henry Kuttner. The collection starts with Mimsy Were the Borogoves, and then moves on.

Mimsy Were the Borogoves is still brilliant forty years later. My blog does it little justice.

The book has an introduction by Ray Bradbury, five years younger than Kuttner; Bradbury claims Kuttner gave him the advice that got him writing: “shut up”. That is, stop wasting your stories talking about them, and start writing them down. Bradbury says he was 17 at the time, so Kuttner would have been about 22. I’d have to say after reading Kuttner’s stories that there’s likely an influence one way or the other, or both, between the authors. There is a family resemblance in the sort of whimsy they use, at least in their short stories.

While the book is a “best of Henry Kuttner”, at least ten of the seventeen stories were originally published either under a pseudonym used by both Kuttner and Moore—such as the Lewis Padgett pseudonym they used for Mimsy—or under joint authorship with each other.

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