Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Peril of Bookstores

Writing about books is dangerous. I come across them in bookshops and they feel so much like old friends I have to greet them. "Hey, it's you! Here at last! I blogged about you months ago and coveted you ... and now I have you in my hands. ... I simply must take you home with me at once."

But penury beckons. I was in Atria yesterday, (buying fish from Giant, but found myself upstairs in the Big Bookshops Warehouse Sale again for some reason) and manged to find cheap copies of The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan (a gap in my reading), The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (horror story!) and Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky which is on all the best books of 2006 lists.

Then I was in Bangsar Shopping Centre and my legs lead me to Times where I found Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man by Norah Vincent, The Ruby in Her Navel by Barry Unsworth, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl and the graphic version of City of Glass by Paul Auster. (See what you guys have done to me - I've bought my first graphic novel!)

The Pessl and Unsworth books are very nice trade paperback editions, of the sort you have to buy those quickly or you end up with manky mass-market paperbacks with newsprint pages and a shelf-life of six months.

But I was honestly working very hard in BSC.

Well ... it might have looked to an outsider as if I was having my hair fiddled with by Felix and my toe nails adorned by Alice with a silly snowman picture, but actually I was tearing through The Brooklyn Follies. (Of which I say nothing more at the moment ... though to give you a clue about how I feel about it, I ended up buying extra copies as gifts.)

And yes, even in Times, book-browsing, it was work: I was checking out what to buy for British Council Library - especially the latest cookbooks. (Nigellas and Jamies.)

I also ended up selling a few books for the bookshop because I got chatting to other bookslovers! Sadly, no-one wants to give me commission.

I was also mouching around the Amazon site looking for a few gifts for my family in UK. My 14 year old nephew Alex is the hardest to buy for.

Not because I can't think what he might like.

I'm sure he'd love Recipes For Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook A Moveable Feast or Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars and More Dynamite Devices.

But I don't think my sis would still love me if I bought them for him.


Agnes Tan said...


What about Deciphering Parents Conversation into Young Adults Language for your nephew? ;-)

anna akhmatova said...

Sharon: Why don't you get the rather ornate book thongs(Borders at the cash register) for the women. They'd love it!:)

bibliobibuli said...

agnes - good idea. but then he never listens to anyone anyway!

anna - yes, i love book thongs and have one someone gave me and find it practical as well as pretty. chet gave me another v. clever kind of bookmark - a book bungee - which holds the pages together with an elastic band - v. useful for making sure your book doesn't get scrunched in your bag

Madcap Machinist said...

I'm surprised that 'Recipes For Disaster' and 'Backyard Ballistics' made it past the book-banning fascists... you never know...

tennis ball mortars. hm...

bibliobibuli said...

no you won't find them here machinist!!

yee,julie said...

sharon, Ooi Yang May suggest I write to you about creative writing. are you conducting any classes on short story or creative writing?

bibliobibuli said...

my course for beginners is starting jan4th at the british council. i plan other courses and workshops for later in 07

Madcap Machinist said...

ah! now it makes sense. i thought you found them at Times BSC... was thinking about heading over there to get them!

Janet said...

Hi Sharon,
You buy books for the British Council?? Very cool. I must say that the literary criticism section is really sad but unsurprising. Actually I just registered myself as a member and was quite surprised that the selection of books wasn't larger.

Cookbooks-love Jamie for his honesty but he's just such a good boy! Never liked the domestic goddess so shan't say more-why not consider bad boy Gordon Ramsay?

Yvonne Foong said...

I can't wait till I earn enough to pay tax so I can at least earn more from buying new books. Goodness me I am catching on the book-buyer fever since now I'm earning some pocket money from writing. And yes, when the need to buy presents, books come to mind! Of late there are many warehouse sales and that's great. Even greater that I got to know a book distributor and he seems to know all the right places. But bookstore chains like MPH and Popular still reigns out of convenience. I wish we could buy books from ebay without being sucked dry by the expensive international postage.

Buying books for people is so special, because books are something dear to me.

Yvonne Foong said...

By the way I have not been able to update your blog the past few days so I wondered where you have been! :P

I saw your reply to my comment in an earlier entry. Actually, I have ran out of books on my end. The first 1,000 books are either sold and completelydistributed! yay! Psst... MPH distribution does not take all at once from me. They go by the sales.

So yeah I gotta reprint. But I don't want to impose on you. I'll print some of the current version first because I need to distribute them to US next month. Only two weeks away! Your version will follow after that. =) Thanks!

Chet said...

I'm getting book vouchers for my nephew whose birthday falls on Christmas Eve! He's old enough to know what he wants book-wise.

bibliobibuli said...

machinist - it's a good job the local bookshops don't sell titles like that with you around, machinist!!

janet - i am writing lists of latest books for purchase but the budget is for fiction and "lifestyle" this time round. no lit crit. ... and yes, spending someone else's money on books is a great feeling. trouble is that after i've gone through the catalogues and read about each title online, i add even more books to my own want list!

so sorry for being slow, yvonne

will get onto your profreading as fast as i can. it's brilliant you're selling so well!! btw - if you want to borrow any books, just let me know. i can leave them and pick them up again from silverfish.

chet - maybe i shoulda done that too but.

Janet said...

Sharon-looking forward to your fiction choices! Maybe then I won't go broke at the bookstores! Yeah, figured that no library here would stock literary criticism books;it's hard enough finding them at local bookstores. I got some 2nd hand lit crit at a London bookstore for a steal, and they were books that I couldn't find anywhere in Malaysia! Will definitely pop by the library sometime next year ;)

bibliobibuli said...

janet - i'm buying everything i can find that's been well reviewed or nominated for awards. if you have any ideas for books which are contemporary (and here i'm looking for books published in the last year or to be published) and with a strong british connection then let me know - either here or by email. my list is due in end of month.

as for lit crit - what are you looking for in partic?

*cosmic freak* said...

I always cry (in my heart) everytime I step out of any bookstores without buying anything. at least a magazine, if I can't afford a book.

nowadays, with the small pay I have, my monthly budget is blown with the "friends" I've managed to keep in touch with at the bookstores. heh.

hurm ... I think the immigration officers at the airports would confiscate the books first, even before alex learn to love it, and your sister to not love you.

bibliobibuli said...

cosmic freak - my sis is in UK so no problem with it being confiscated.

feel exactly the same way in bookshops, which is why sometimes i don't allow myself to go near them. big danger!!

The Eternal Wanderer said...

I can never decide which book to get for my friends. I either get book vouchers for them and let them decide for themselves. Only those that I know who really pines for a certain book will I get those books for them.

Heh, tennis ball modern kids are these days! I still remember my pathetic catapult put together using a 'Y' shaped branch. Now they have tennis ball mortars...goodness me, how time flies...I'm only 24 and I already sound like an old Ah Pek!

Btw, Sharon, I've came up with new blog site to focus exclusively on writing and books. Please bookmark me! ^_^


*cosmic freak* said...

I always give my own books to my friends, not new ones, those I own, so that it carries more sentimental value to me and the friend.

even if I buy a new one, I make sure I read them first then later give it to them.

best yet, you bring the friend to the bookstore and purchase the book with him or her, as they assume you're purchasing it for yourself.

books as gift should carry more sentimental value. I don't know, maybe its just me. to buy and book and have it wrapped then and there at the bookstore just don't feel right for me.

bibliobibuli said...

eternal wanderer - you sound envious of the tennis ball mortar!! (maybe on behalf of an earlier self)

thanks for the link to your new website

cosmic freak - i always give gifts of books i love myself to people i think will appreciate them. usually i'm right although sometimes very wrong too!! i love to give books to my sister who really appreciates having stuff recommended.

Rehman Rashid said...

Preencess Anna: You shoulda mentioned those book-thong-things cost, like, thirty ringgers apiece! My last girlfriend made me buy them for her by the dozen - *sigh* there's more than one route to "bibliobankruptcy". I guess the days of thinging thongs for thixthpenth are over. :')