Friday, August 24, 2012

The longest novel and other finds

While visiting family in Western Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago, we couldn't resist paying a visit to our old recycling center in Northampton for its fantastic book shed. We lived there for the 2010/11 school year and were regular visitors of the shed -- this was all pre-"Get a Spine" so we don't have a log of what we found then, but suffice it to say that our current library would be much smaller if not for the book shed.

As is the nature of these "take some, leave some" free book exchanges, it is hit or miss depending on who has dropped off recently and who has been by to browse. If you're looking for classics and you see our car, best come by another day!

That day we walked away with two paperback copies of Pride and Prejudice, because you can never have enough of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. One is a Signet Classic edition with a rather uncharacteristically dispassionate drawing of whom I can only assume is Elizabeth Bennet; a peacock -- whose reference is beyond me; and a lock -- equally enigmatic. I'll ponder over these awhile. (If you have any insight, leave a comment!) The other copy we found is nothing fancy but the cover has a subtle prettiness to it that I like: a matte grey cover with purple text and a little etching of a gentleman bowing to a seated lady.

We also found another Riverside Edition to add to our growing collection. We're going to need another bookshelf just for all of our Riversides soon! This one is Clarissa by Samual Richardson -- another title we're not familiar with, but happy to discover. Interesting fact about this book: it is the longest novel in the English language based on word count, beat only by Marcel Proust's epic In Search of Lost Time (originally published in French). Who knew?

We also added Spoon River Anthology to our collection. We already had The New Spoon River (also acquired at the DPW Book Shack, oddly enough). It is a neat collection of short free-form poems that collectively describe the life of the fictional small town of Spoon River as described by its deceased former residents. Originally published in 1915, we snagged a paperback edition printed in 1969. For free, it works.

All in all, a worthwhile trip to our old book shed.

Books added: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (x2!); Clarissa by Samuel Richardson; Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

Publishers (in same order): Signet; Washington Square Press; Houghton Mifflin Co. Riverside Editions; Collier Books

1961; 1961; 1962; 1969

Where obtained: Northampton DPW Book Shack

Price: Free!

Bookseller Review: Northampton DPW Book Shed

Northampton DPW Book Shed
125 Locust St.
Northampton, MA

Pretty much just what the name says. It's a book shed at the local "dump." But it can be truly awesome. It is organized, believe it or not.

What we like: The randomness, the tight squeeze, the always-good selection of classic fiction, the fact that it's all free.

What we don't like: Unless you know how to get around it, you have to have a sticker to visit the premises, and thereby gain access to the book shed. It is possible to do it without the sticker...

Would we go again? Without a doubt. This little shed (without us realizing it at the time) helped propel us down the road toward "Get a Spine," so we will always stop by when we have the chance.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Viva Firenze (Massachusetts) -- Pt. I

One of our favorite little towns is Florence, Mass. We lived equidistant from the centers of Florence and Northampton, and while Northampton is not a burgeoning metropolis by any means, it is much bigger than Florence, making Florence always seem like the place to go for some peace and quiet.

One of the places we really love in Florence is Bookends, a two-story (first floor and basement) used-book store on the main drag. We'd done some Christmas shopping there in the past, but hadn't ever really shopped for ourselves there, and now that we were "official," we had to make Bookends a stop on our trip.

The fiction section is on the first floor, so as we normally do, we split up and started from one end of the alphabet. A bonus for us about Bookends is that they have a nice little kids room right next to the fiction section, in which we could let our daughter play semi-unattended while we browsed.

As I worked my way backward from Z, I made it all the way to the M's before finding anything I wanted to hang onto, and that was a 1936 copy of Gone with the Wind. Our copy is not a first edition, though it is a later printing in the year of its original publication, and by the original publisher. All things considered, it's in pretty good shape, and looks like it has earned it's 76 years of existence. I've not ever read it, and haven't seen the movie all the way through, but something just seemed appropriate about putting it on my list of "to reads" now that we're living south of the Mason-Dixon line.

I also found us another Riverside Edition, The Rise of Silas Lapham by William D. Howells, and grabbed a Modern Library copy of  The Best American Humorous Short Stories, because we all need a little comedy in our lives. 

Deborah did the rest our damage at Bookends, grabbing some Austen, Conrad, Dickens, Fitzgerald, London, a Riverside Edition of Conrad's Lord Jim, and more.

We also had the chance to talk to Bookends' owner, Grey Angell, which you can read more about -- as well as see the remainder of our "Books added" (stupid Blogger tag limits!) in Part II here...

Books added: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald; White Fang by Jack London; Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad; The Rise of Silas Lapham by William D. Howells; The Best American Humorous Short Stories ed. by Alexander Jessup

Publishers (in same order): Scribners; The MacMillan Company; Houghton Mifflin Co. Riverside Editions; Houghton Mifflin Co. Riverside Editions; Random House Modern Library

1972; 1909; 1958; 1957; 1943

Where obtained: Bookends

Price: $20.00

Viva Firenze (Massachusetts) -- Pt. II

We often get a chance to meet and talk with the owners of the bookstores we visit, usually while checking out with our purchases. It was the case at Bookends, where we spoke with the store's owner, Grey Angell. Grey has long been in the bookstore business, taking ownership of Bookends from the previous owner of the store, for whom Grey worked as an assistant for some years prior to taking it on himself.

We had a very nice conversation, and among the things we talked about was Christopher Morley's Parnassus on Wheels. Neither Deborah nor I had ever heard of it, but hearing Grey describe it, we knew it was something we need to add to our reading and library wishlists. A story about a traveling book-selling business? We're sold.

Bookends had a copy, but it was recent, and with an original publication date of 1917, we know we can do better. So we're on the hunt!

Here's the rest of what we added on our trip to Bookends (Part I of our trip is here).

Books added: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen; The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler; Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens; 

Publishers (in same order): Signet; Books Inc.; The MacMillan Company; Collier; Signet

1964; 1945; 1936; 1964

Where obtained: Bookends

Price: $14.50

Bookseller Review: Bookends

80 Maple St.
Florence, MA

Bookends offers selections from the expected to the unexpected in virtually every category. Its strengths are in history, biography, natural history and particularly in literature-fiction, poetry and literary criticism. Bookends also has a sizeable collection of foreign language books. 

What we like: Any book store with a cat is good by us. Plus, the selection is solid (two stories), the owner is extremely nice, and the prices are reasonable.

What we don't like: We visited once while we were living in Northampton and there were cookies. On this visit, no cookies? 

Would we go again? Yes. It's too good of a book store, and we like the town of Florence too much, to not go back any time we can.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not likely to be the 'Last' for us

Third on our stop in Northampton during our 48-hour stay was Gabriel Books, on Market St. Tucked among various antique shops, Gabriel had been recommended on our visit to Old Book Store on the other end of downtown.

We've already posted perhaps our best find at Gabriel Books on this visit, this sweet bumper sticker. It's not that we didn't find books to add to our collection. But whether it was because of spending fatigue after visiting Old Book Store and Raven Used Books, or if it was just plain old physical fatigue after carting around a bag full of books from those two stores, we only left Gabriel Books with one new item. Yet another copy of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, our second on that day alone!

Much like Deborah with Pride and Prejudice, I often can't resist picking up a new copy of a "Leatherstocking Tale" whenever I find one. But sometimes I can resist. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the visit to Gabriel Books on this day was getting a chance to check out an N.C. Wyeth-illustrated edition of Cooper's The Deerslayer. Very cool, and in really good condition for being such an early copy of this particular edition (not a 1925 first edition, I don't think, but not far off). But at $150, it was too rich for our blood.

Still worth getting a look at, all the same.

Book added: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap


Where obtained: Gabriel Books

Price: $4.00

Bookseller Review: Gabriel Books

Gabriel Books
21 Market St.
Northampton, MA

Books of all types bought, sold, and appraised. The book buyer is in the store on Fridays and Saturdays. Housecalls can be made for larger collections. The bookshop was started as The Madeleine in Isla Vista, California in 1972 by John and Patty Riley. It continued as The Globe in Northampton, Massachusetts, and now is named Gabriel Books after the owners' son, Gabe.

What we like: Cozy space, books everywhere, a healthy section of classics, friendly owner who gave us a great bumper sticker.

What we don't like: No real complaints other than some of the things we really liked were out of our price range.   

Would we go again? Absolutely. Given a bit more time, I am sure we'd walk out of there with more than we did our first trip.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not bad for being lazy

After a successful visit to Old Book Store, we made our way next to Raven Used Books in downtown Northampton. We had already made a long drive that morning and eaten a yummy lunch at one of our old favorites, Bueno y Sano, so by the time we made it to Raven, I was feeling a bit tired and ready to be done. I did a lazy scan of the fiction section -- so lazy in fact that Kristian picked out a Riverside -- a good one, The Mill on the Floss by George Elliot -- on his way through that I had missed. He playfully chided me for my laziness and I defended myself by producing a nice hardcover edition of Collected Stories of William Faulkner, published in 1950. We both enjoy a good collection of short stories, so I was pardoned.

As he continued to retrace my steps along the fiction shelf, he mentioned that he had noticed a smaller shelf of old hardcovers behind the cashier's desk, so I wandered over to check it out. When they keep books behind the counter it usually means they are out of our price range, but it is always fun to see what they may have hiding there. My eyes fell immediately on a very interesting old spine for Bleak House. Now, Bleak House is one of my favorite books -- the story is amazing, with so many layers. I highly recommend it. Dickens was genius, a magician with a pen. But back to this book. I asked to take a look at it and was delighted to find that not only was it in great shape, but it was printed in 1883, and it was $15, which is absolutely in our price range. So that rounded out a nice little purchase at Raven Books -- not bad for being lazy.

Books added: Bleak House by Charles Dickens; The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot; Collected Stories of William Faulkner by William Faulkner

Publishers (in same order): Estes and Lauriat; Houghton Mifflin Co. Riverside Editions; Random House

1883; 1961; 1950

Where obtained: Raven Used Books

Prices: $15.00; $5.50; $6.00

Bookseller Review: Raven Used Books

Raven Used Books
4 Old South St.
Northampton, MA

Raven specializes in academic and scholarly titles, and offers a wide variety of children's books, poetry, fiction, gardening, philosophy, cultural studies, cookbooks, eastern and western religions, fantasy and science fiction, mystery, Native American studies, women's studies, African American studies, Greek and Roman classics, linguistics, history, science and nature, and much, much more.

What we like: Raven is the quintessential college-town used-book store. A solid wall of fiction, always-changing inventory, good people-watching, good deals, and -- last, but certainly not least -- a location next door to one of the best ice cream shops on the planet.

What we don't like: On occassion, the collection can be a bit too "college course newer used book" and therefore lacking in older editions, but this is picking nits (specific to our goals) about a really good used-book store.  

Would we go again? Of course. Raven was a must-visit while we lived in Northampton, and it'll continue to be any time we are passing through.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Northampton, where Old is new to us

Our three-week trip concluded, we returned home to host some guests from Spain for a few days, and now we've had some time to breathe and get caught up to date on our bookstore travels in the Northeast. Up first, our trip to Old Book Store in Northampton, Massachusetts.

We'd been to Old Book Store before. Maybe a few times in the 10 months we lived in Northampton. I remember being disappointed on a Monday or two (yes, more than once -- silly, I know) when I would take a walk from my terrible job and head toward Old Book Store, only to be disappointed to find it closed.

As we made our way to Old Book Store on our first stop in Northampton on this trip -- our first time in Northampton as "Get a Spine" -- I had a good feeling about what we might find.

After three minutes inside, my feelings were justified, 10 times over.

As we have mentioned time and time again, we collect a certain style of Riverside Editions from Houghton Mifflin. We collect them both for their look and the quality of the intros and other materials they include with each work. We've had a hard time determining exactly how many and what novels were published in this style, but using the various lists in the back of each one we add, we at least knew a The Last of the Mohicans was out there somewhere. We figured it would be hard to find, especially since we were looking for it...

Yet there it was at Old Book Store, right before my eyes. I couldn't believe it, I told Deborah she wouldn't believe it... yet it was true. And in probably the best condition of any Riverside we have collected. It's practically new. Just awesome.

After that, anything else we left with was gravy, and we found some pretty good gravy at that, including two more Riversides, a Modern Library Grapes of Wrath and one of Deborah's favorites, Love in the Time of Cholera, published in the year it first appeared in print in English by the original English-language publisher (we think it's not a first edition, but a later run that year).

As we checked out, we introduced ourselves to the store's owner (as we normally do), and proceeded to have a very nice conversation with Grant Walz about his bookstore, and the future of used-book collecting and used-book store owners. We can't say it was an optimistic conversation about the future, but we can say that it was a really enjoyable meeting, and we were glad to meet Mr. Walz, and at the very least, maybe give him a little more hope about the future than he may have started the day with.

Books added: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; The Ordeal of Richard Feverel by George Meredith; Six Eighteenth-Century Plays

Publishers (in same order): Houghton Mifflin Co. Riverside Editions; Random House Modern Library; Alfred A. Knopf; Houghton Mifflin Co. Riverside Editions; Houghton Mifflin Co. Riverside Editions

1958; 1943; 1988; 1971; 1963

Where obtained: Old Book Store

Price: $12.00 total

Bookseller Review: Old Book Store

Old Book Store
32 Masonic St.
Northampton, MA

Old Book Store is in the basement of a red-brick building off Northampton's main drag. The family-owned-and-operated store has been in business for decades, and many different genres are represented in its collection, all at fair prices.

What we like: We did very well here, so that's one thing we like very much. We also had a very nice conversation with the owner. And you'll find that you get good bang for your buck here.

What we don't like: In our conversation, it sounded like once the current owner, Grant Walz, decides to pack it up, that'll be the end of Old Book Store. 

Would we go again? Absolutely. Even though we took home a good haul, we have faith that when we return, we'll find plenty more.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Spine Nine: Popeks Books

One stop on our Northeast trip was to Popeks Books in Oneonta, N.Y. We had learned about this shop via the book blog "Forgotten Bookmarks," which is run by Michael Popek, the owner of Popeks Books. Michael was kind enough to participate in our recurring series of Q&A with bookstore owners called "The Spine Nine."

Thanks, Michael!

Name: Michael Popek
Bookstore: Popeks Books

1. When did you know you wanted to be a bookstore owner? Why? I didn't wake up one morning and realize it, it took a long time to settle into the job. Our shop is a family business, so I've been helping out with the books since I was pretty young. My wife and I moved back here from the West Coast in 2001 to help out with the store when my father became ill. I slowly got more and more involved, and here I am.

2. Do you have a book which is your white whale? If so, would you actually sell it? Everything is for sale. Being a bookseller means you have to appreciate books, but it can be trouble if you become attached. I have my own little collection of oddball baseball titles, that's as far it goes. Having access to so many cool books means that it's easy to start taking them home. All of that said, if a really early translation of "The Odyssey" drifted into the shop, I'd have a hard time letting it pass by, no matter what the price.

3. If you could assume the life of any character from a classic work of fiction, who would it be and why? Most of my favorite classic characters have rather tragic literary lives, I'm not sure I'd want to walk in their shoes. To give you an answer, how about Montgomery Brewster?

4. What was the experience of selling your first book like? To be honest, I don't even remember. I was probably 8 or 9 years old, and it was likely during one of the book sales we'd have before we had an open shop. A couple of tables set up on the front porch, a few calls made to local dealers, clear out some inventory.

5. The Kindle/Nook/etc. is ... Great for booksellers, they just don't realize it. My full opinion is here:

6. Describe your most memorable acquisition experience. I could probably tell you the story of picking up a first edition / first state of "On The Road" or even finding the first and original Latin translation of Beowulf, but the most memorable was a house call I went on about 10 years ago. The sale had already been arranged, I was just there to pick up the books. Which were in an old barn. In the loft. That had no ladder. I get up there by standing on the roof of our van only to find I wasn't alone. There were hundreds of millions of ladybugs, more than half of them dead. Six inches deep, in every box, down every spine, between the pages. The books weren't even that great, but I loaded them up anyway. I still find the occasional ladybug at the bottom of a box, and I wonder if it came from that barn.

7. If classic novelists were like rock stars or athletes, which three posters would be on your walls? I suppose Hemingway would have to be up there, he was quite a sportsman anyway. Homer and Aeschylus can round out the trio.

8. In 25 years, used-book stores will be ... Smaller in numbers, more specialized, but very much alive and thriving.

9. If someone wrote a novel about your bookstore, what would it be called? Sisyphus -- seems like I'm always moving entire sections of books around, only to move them again in three months.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why indeed...

Still out on the road, and lots more to write about our travels, but for now we couldn't resist putting up this bumper sticker we were given Tuesday at Gabriel Books in Northampton, Ma.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Spine Nine: Willis Monie Books

While in Cooperstown recently, we stopped by Willis Monie Books to do some browsing and shopping. The owner of Willis Monie Books, Will Monie, was then kind enough to participate in our recurring series of Q&A with bookstore owners called "The Spine Nine."

Thanks, Mr. Monie!

Name: Will Monie
Bookstore: Willis Monie Books

1. When did you know you wanted to be a bookstore owner? Why? After 37 years, still not sure I want to be a bookstore owner. But honestly, this is what I like to do. My wife always tells people I’m “retired” because now I’m just doing what I like.

2. Do you have a book which is your white whale? If so, would you actually sell it? For years I collected John Milton—I would not sell a first edition of Paradise Lost if it ever came my way.

3. If you could assume the life of any character from a classic work of fiction, who would it be and why? Elizabeth Bennett -- she gets all the good lines.

4. What was the experience of selling your first book like? Too long ago -- sold books long before I started the book store.

5. The Kindle/Nook/etc. is ... an invention of the devil.

6. Describe your most memorable acquisition experience. The time I pulled a first edition of The Book of Mormon out of someone’s trash.

7. If classic novelists were like rock stars or athletes, which three posters would be on your walls? Jane Austen, Laurence Sterne, and, of course, James Fenimore Cooper.

8. In 25 years, used-book stores will be ... used book stores will be very scarce, but an antiquarian bookstore will still be very viable as we will have collectors for a long time.

9. If someone wrote a novel about your bookstore, what would it be called? For the Love of It