Mimsy: Books

New Orleans: Beckham’s Bookshop—Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Beckham’s Bookshop storefront

I finally made it back to New Orleans! I had some great food, saw some great sights, and managed to buy far more books than I’d planned on.

I was last in New Orleans a year before Hurricane Katrina; and the one store I worried about was Beckham’s. I remember it being a ramshackle bookstore in the French Quarter, with well-spaced piles of book lining the floors as well as the shelves—something easily wiped out by water damage, even if the actual flooding of the French Quarter was mostly news hysteria.

Beckham’s may smell a little mustier now—or it may not, I get used to the smell of mustiness in bookstores and don’t pay attention to it—but it’s still a ramshackle bookstore in the French Quarter, with well-spaced piles of books lining the floors as well as the shelves. It’s a great place to browse both in-order books and out-of-order books. There’s also a decent record store on the top floor.

That last time I was in New Orleans, I bought more at Beckham’s than just the role-playing book listed here. But this was before I’d started my database of books; I remember buying the role-playing book there vividly because I found it haphazardly located in one of those piles lining the floors. It was a memorable find. I don’t play Call of Cthulhu, but the Dreamlands are a great resource for any game. And it’s a beautiful hardcover; the cover art inside and out is phenomenal.

Whatever other books I bought there, I found in the shelves, and unlike the floors the shelves are easy to navigate. So they were less memorable finds.

This time around, I picked up a great Victor Davis Hanson book, Who Killed Homer? as well as an old-school slow-cooker cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens. I recently picked up the Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookies Cook Book and it has been phenomenal. The series doesn’t look like it’s going to rival the Southern Living collection I reviewed last year, but it has potential. I won’t be collecting the series because the series includes Better Homes and Gardens topics I’m uninterested in, unrelated to food; but I will be looking at any books I see in the library from the era.

While you’re in the area, you might also check out Dauphine Street Books; it is, however, not nearly as easy to browse. The shelves are cramped and would be difficult even if the floors weren’t also filled. There are good books there, however.

The Year in Books: 2019—Wednesday, January 1st, 2020
The Bookstore at Library Square

If you find yourself in Little Rock, the Bookstore at Library Square is a great place to browse and relax.

It has been a very good year for books, and I even made a dent in my to-read pile. According to my database, I acquired 136 books this year, and according to Goodreads I read 145.

Since my to-read pile is a double-wide bookcase, I should be through it in about twenty years.

The Goodreads “year in books” is an interesting summary, but some of its categories are antiquated. In the era of ebooks, I don’t know that “shortest book read” makes a lot of sense. The shortest book I read this year was, of course, a short story. It was a very good short story, Lauren Pope’s1 fun Just Another Oppressor. Sadly, as far as I can tell it’s no longer available.

The longest book was IBM’s Early Computers, a fascinating look at the history of digital computers through the growth of a company that could have been destroyed by them. IBM was a mechanical device company. They made typewriters, and card readers, all mechanical devices for aiding in data collection and analysis. All of them destined for the junkyard. Had IBM not completely shifted their focus, they would have gone out of business.

The most popular book was a science fiction book, Dune. I read Dune ages ago, along with Dune Messiah, but never got around to finishing the trilogy. This year I vowed to read the full three books, and did so. It is not surprising that this science fiction book is incredibly popular and remains so. It touches on just about everything that it means to be human.

The least popular book I read varies, because I read several books that “0 people also read”. What that means, of course, is that zero people read them and then notified Goodreads. Currently in that slot is Instant BASIC. It’s filled with public domain art and era-specific jokes

I continued reading a lot of late seventies/early eighties computer books this year, which meant a lot of BASIC. The very first book I finished in 2019 was 24 Tested Ready-to-Run Game Programs in BASIC.

The Year in Books: 2018—Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019
Temple Public Library sale haul 2018

This was a very nice, and small, haul from nearby Temple’s Public Library sale—plus one book from McWha Books and one from Amazon. I still have three of these to read, and am currently halfway through Kip Thorne’s book, which I fully expect to be on next year’s recommendations.

According to Goodreads, I read 133 books last year; according to my own databases, I bought 134. That’s teetering on the edge of sustainability. The latter number also includes reference books downloaded to my tablet that I don’t need to read per se, and instruction manuals that I have read but that don’t get counted on Goodreads.

Which means I am making a dent in my to-read shelf/ves, albeit slowly.

According to Goodreads, the shortest book I read was Lawrence W. Reed’s Great Myths of the Great Depression. At only twenty pages, it’s a good overview of the period as seen through the eyes of the people who lived it.

The longest book was The Essential Ellison, which, unless you want to know more about Ellison’s work, I don’t recommend. Unfortunately, when I read Ellison I tend to find his introductions more interesting than his works, and this book contains other people’s introductions, not his.

The most popular book I read this year was Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, which I highly recommend, preferably before you see the movie if you haven’t yet. I saw the movie and still thoroughly enjoyed the book. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead was very different and just as enjoyable.

The least popular book, not surprisingly, is a guide to a computer that was discontinued long before Goodreads was founded. Goodreads was launched at the very end of 2006, and the Tandy 200 was a 1985-era computer1. So it’s not surprising that I needed to request an update of the bibliographic data and cover for Lien’s books.

Sydney, Nova Scotia: Ed’s Books and More—Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Ed’s Books and More is a great unpretentious used bookstore on the main street just up from the docks in Sydney. If you’re looking for it coming up from a cruise ship you can’t miss it.

Organization is spotty; shelves are well-packed; and they have a wide variety. They have a lot of old science fiction paperbacks from the likes of Andre Norton and Leigh Bracket; a lot of biographies; and popular literary fiction.

Somewhat ironically, I found a copy of Mark Steyn’s America Alone. Ironically, because the reason I was in Sydney was for the SteynAtSea cruise, and I’d expected to pick up a copy of this book from the Steyn team. But the cruise was set up as entertainment for the guests, not as a way for Mark to hawk his wares, and so they didn’t have his books on sale there. If only they’d had a copy of Broadway Babies Say Goodnight!

None of the other books were on my list, but Ethan Canin is always a good read, the concept of Joseph Gies’s Bridges and Men seems like just the right way to cover the history of bridges, I’ve been meaning to read more Haggard, and Newspaper Row sounds like a great companion to Deadlines & Monkeyshines: The Fabled World of Chicago Journalism.

The store appears to be a bit of a local hangout. I sent an hour and a half browsing books—deciding what was worth dragging down to Boston and then across to Texas—and it seemed as though every couple of minutes someone would walk in and be greeted by name.

He was also friendly to strangers. When he added up my purchases, he rounded everything down to the nearest dollar—and then threw in the most expensive book (which wasn’t expensive at all—only $4.50 Canadian) for free. If I am ever back in Sydney, I will make sure to visit Ed’s again, and to have more Canadian cash in my wallet—and more space available in my luggage for books. It may well be that if I visit Sydney again it will be because of Ed’s.

Up to this point I had managed to restrain myself from overloading on books, mindful of the flight home. These five, three of them hardcovers, filled the remaining space in my tote bag to the top. I had to be very picky at the rest of my stops, after shopping Ed’s. If you’re a book-lover and you find yourself in Sydney, you owe yourself a stop at Ed’s.

Las Cruces, New Mexico: Coas Books—Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018
Coas Books, Solano

I can’t believe I haven’t listed Coas Books here yet. I found three of the Doubleday/Ballantine “Classics of Science Fiction” books here, as well as the elusive Volume IIB of The Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

They’ve also had some nice retro BASIC books, which have been useful now that I’ve been trying to do things with a TRS-80 Model 100.

Las Cruces is almost exactly halfway between Round Rock, Texas and San Diego, California. One of my examples of “Texas is big” is that when I drive to and from San Diego, it’s a two-day trip. One day of the trip goes completely across New Mexico, Arizona, and California all the way to the coast. The other day goes through half of Texas.

Because I make it a two-day trip, Las Cruces is the natural place to stop, and for that reason I looked for used bookstores in the area. The best, by far, is Coas, both locations. Unfortunately, because it’s at the end of a nine-hour day, whichever direction I’m coming from, I don’t go as often as I’d like. In fact, the April 24 spree you see in the list below was because I decided to spend a day in Las Cruces, and that day was spent mostly browsing books, reading books, and eating Mexican food. Because I had a day to spare I was able to hit both locations. And it made a nice break between two full days of driving.

They have a huge and wonderful selection of fantasy and science fiction, including a lot of older titles. The Solano location is smaller, so if you only have time for one, it should be the main location on Main Street. But as you can see I found some nice things in the smaller location, too. Members of my writing group have been recommending Richard Ford for a long time, and they were right; I already knew that Michael Chabon was worth reading but wasn’t aware of his semi-memoirish Maps and Legends until I saw it there.

If you’ve got a long day ahead of you on Highway 10 and you need an excuse to stop in Las Cruces to walk around a while, Coas makes a great break.

Next to the Solano location is a Mexican restaurant called El Patron. I recommend that, too.

Palestine, Texas: The Palestine Public Library—Wednesday, April 25th, 2018
Palestine Book Haul

Two of these books came from The Horse’s Mouth nearby in Buffalo; the rest came from the Palestine Public Library sale.

Last year on the way to a conference I took Highway 79 to Highway 20, to bypass all the Dallas traffic. On the way, I found a great little restaurant in Palestine, Texas. It’s hard to find good gnocchi, and they had it. So when Book Sale Finder showed a library booksale in Palestine right around when I started feeling like I needed a good road trip, I decided to go.

As you can tell from my purchases, I’m glad I did. I’ve been on the lookout for Manly Wade Wellman books, and The Old Gods Awaken has specifically been on my list. And I’ve been meaning to read Being There ever since I realized the movie was based on a book. I thoroughly enjoyed Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, so I took the chance on both of the Ford books I saw there.

I don’t expect any of the other books to be disappointments either.

It’s a one-room sale, crowded with books—I overheard one person say that it was like Black Friday for books, which was an accurate description. Most of them are general fiction; there is a table dedicated to science fiction and fantasy, but I found the Manly Wade Wellman book and the Pournelle-Niven book in the general fiction section. I’m pretty sure I found Tom Wolfe’s book in the general fiction section, too, even though it isn’t technically fiction.1

Buffalo, Texas: The Horse’s Mouth on Highway 79—Wednesday, March 21st, 2018
The Horse’s Mouth

A lot of fiction, a little science fiction, and some nice cookbooks.

If you’re traveling through Texas on Highway 79, and you find yourself in Buffalo, you could do a lot worse than stopping off at The Horse’s Mouth bookstore and coffeeshop. Besides coffee, they have a huge selection of ice cream flavors to turn into shakes, and, of even more importance when traveling, they have a nice selection of used books to walk around and browse. After several hours of driving, why stop at a coffeeshop that expects you to sit down?

While the book side has a relatively small selection of used books for a bookstore, it has a big selection for a coffeeshop/bookstore. I was on my way to Palestine—and another booksale—when I stopped here, and I even managed to find a book I’d been looking for, Brad Thor’s The Lions of Lucerne as well as a hardcover of Ken Follett’s On the Wings of Eagles. I read the latter in paperback form a long time ago and have been wanting to re-read it.

Lions of Lucerne is the first book in the Scot Harvath series; I read the tenth book, Full Black, a few years ago, and liked it enough I picked up another at random; it turned out to be the ninth in the series. I have a tendency to do this: randomly pick out a book that’s in the middle of a series, than read backwards. I decided this time to stop reading any more in the series until I could find the first. Now I have it, so I’ll be digging into a long thriller series.

They had a small selection of nice science fiction and fantasy, and also a shelf of very nice cookbooks. Again, not many, but what they had were good books. They had at least three of the Southern Living series from the seventies, which is one of my favorite series of cookbooks. I think they’re other people’s favorites as well, since they rarely show up in used bookstores. Alas, all of the ones here were ones I already own.

It looks like from their web page that they run a local writers conference, too, although I don’t see any information about it.

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.

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