Monday, June 3, 2013

Often give us soldiers the lie: but we pay them for

My reading through a list of 100 books has meant that I have had to get my hands on...100 different books. While I understand the appeal of buying books and having them displayed on a bookshelf in one's home, it isn't really for me. Maybe if the books I bought were leather-bound first editions, but I have no desire to line my shelf with a collection of paperbacks, most of which I will never read again.

So, to read through these books I've been making good use of the library. Of the 65 books I've read so far, 60 were from the library. However, the library doesn't have every book on the list. To ensure that I'll never been in a situation where I'm waiting to read the 100th book, I've always kept my eyes open for these missing titles at every used bookstore I visit.

Currently my two most sought titles are Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone, and Loving by Henry Green. There are other titles the library currently doesn't have, but I know this is only because their previous copies were discarded and are being replaced (White Noise).

Of course the reason the library doesn't have these titles, is usually the same reason I can't seem to find them in any bookstores; they're rather obscure and aren't easily obtainable. But this past weekend, I finally hit pay dirt.

While visiting friends in Philadelphia over the weekend, I made a quick stop in New York "on my way" back to the airport in Newark, for the explicit purpose of visiting the Strand Bookstore. The Strand is the last surviving bookstore from New York's famed 'Book Row,' and boasts a collection of over 2,000,000 titles. I have the mindset that if you can't find it at the Strand, it probably isn't worth reading.

Deep into fiction, sitting on a shelf so high I needed a ladder to retrieve it, was a 1972, second edition copy of Dog Soldiers, with a slightly torn cover. After visiting roughly thirty different used bookstores in eight different cities, (including six in Philadelphia the day before), I had finally found what I was looking for! Well, I'd found half of what I was looking for, as they did not have Loving. Which means the search must continue.

But I'm not worried, as I still have 34 other books to read, which means I should be still reading this list for another year and a half, which means I should have plenty of time to find Henry Green's novel. In fact, I should have enough time to return to New York and browse through one of the city's other 6 million bookstores until I find a copy.

As an aside, the Strand had a first edition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on display. But I was in a bit of a rush, and simply didn't have time to track down a staff member to open up the case for me. Nor did I have $1,100.

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