Thursday, April 26, 2007

Treasure Hunting: How to Find Good Books for Less

“When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” –Erasmus

Every bibliophile wants to find new books to add to their collection. However, this could easily become an expensive hobby. For someone with a limited income, it is nice to know that good quality books can be found for much less that the retail price!

My dad is a great bargain hunter. He’s one of those people who can find amazing deals in the most unexpected places. (Of course, it helps that he can talk to almost anyone. I’ve always said that even if he went to the moon, he’d find someone he knew!) Growing up with him has been one long adventure. Early on, daddy began filling our house with books and helping each of us to begin building our own libraries.

Here are some of the places we’ve been:

Garage Sales

Garage sales are one of the cheapest places to buy used books. A very large portion of my personal library came from garage sales. The selection is totally unpredictable, so if you want something specific this is probably not the best way to find it—unless you don’t mind looking forever! But if you like surprises, going to garage sales can be great fun.

One of my favorite parts of the shopping is bargaining. If I don’t like the price, then I’ll ask the owner if they will take less. How to do this takes a bit of discerning guesswork: some people are very firm in wanting what is marked, and may even take offense if you offer less. But I’ve found that most simply want to get rid of their excess stuff. It’s not unusual for sellers to accept 50% of their original price. I usually buy books for $1 or less.


Libraries are always trimming their selection to make room for new acquisitions. The “unpopular” books that are discarded are very often just the ones I like. The bad thing about discarded books is that they are often in very poor condition. The best books I’ve found are donations that never made it to the shelves.
Many times the books are sold by donation, instead of a fixed price. Our local library recently had a special “Fill a bag for $1” sale.

My favorite library find: A lovely copy of Nearby!

Thrift Stores

The selection at thrift stores such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army is usually very slim, and limited to paperback novels and dated self-help books. I have found the occasional treasure, such as my nearly-new hardback copy of Lord Peter. Prices range from 29 cents to a dollar.

Used Book Shops

If I ever make a trip across the U.S., I want to browse as many bookshops as I can. Each one is unique and, (hurrah!) most have some semblance of order. I have found decent hardbacks for as little as $4.

Antique Stores

Most books at antique shops are pricey. ($10 and up) I don’t like to pay more than $7 unless it’s a book I really want. The real reason I frequent these stores is to window-shop: so many old books have beautiful, unusual covers.


E-Bay is a great place to find specific books. I don’t care for bidding, however, and tend to look for “Buy it now” listings.

I’m sure there are many other good places to find used books. Would anyone care to share his or her favorites? I’m curious to know if anyone has used Internet swap sites? (like Bookins or Titletrader)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Last of Lord Peter

“We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.”

--C.S. Lewis, “On Stories”, in Of Other Worlds

Finally, I have finished all 11 of Dorothy Sayers’ “Lord Peter” mysteries. But that doesn’t mean I’m finished with them. Not at all! Now, I will be able to go back and read them slowly. I’ll pay attention to the literary allusions. I’ll observe characters more closely. Now comes the real fun!

Here are my first impressions of the two I’ve read most recently:

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

“What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this Morgue?” demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the “Evening Banner” with the air of a man released from an irksome duty. –opening line of chapter one

Captain Fentiman’s jest about the somber atmosphere of the club becomes surprisingly true just minutes later. A bit of unpleasantness is discovered, in the form of an elderly gentleman apparently deceased in his sleep—right there in the smoking room. An unpleasant enough situation for the management—think of the publicity!—becomes worse when the question of murder is raised.

This book kept me guessing: each time I thought I’d found the solution, I discovered that there were way too many pages left for me to be right in my conclusions. Then, when I finally found out what really happened, I felt I should have known all along.

The Five Red Herrings

Red herring: something used to divert attention from the basic issue.

One body. Six suspects. Only one is guilty. Which?

Don’t get skip all the talk about railway timetables, bicycle tires and painting techniques. Take your time and be observant. Don’t rush breathlessly to the end like I did. I felt a bit of a fool!

There are two more Lord Peter stories, written by Jill Paton Walsh, but I don’t have very high hopes for these. I’ve always been leery of series continued by other authors. However, I am giving Thrones, Dominations a chance.

*Edit* I gave Thrones, Dominations a chance. I read about half, which was more than it deserved. Yuck. There are some things I don't want to read about. I'm all for mysteries without character's lustful ruminations and innuendo. Don't even bother with it.

Here’s a list of the books in order of their printing (courtesy of Wikipedia), with links to my reviews:

* Whose Body?, 1923
* Clouds of Witness, 1926
* Unnatural Death, 1927
* The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, 1928
* Strong Poison, 1931
* Five Red Herrings, 1931
* Have His Carcase, 1932
* Murder Must Advertise, 1933
* The Nine Tailors, 1934
* Gaudy Night, 1935
* Busman's Honeymoon, 1937
* Thrones, Dominations, 1998 (not finished by Sayers -- completed by Jill Paton Walsh)
* A Presumption of Death, 2002 (written by Jill Paton Walsh, based loosely on The Wimsey Papers)

I have also commented on Lord Peter, a short story collection.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Calls to prayer

In light of the recent discussion on Getting Serious About Getting Married, I was interested to find two relevant calls to prayer.

The first is from a pastor, who calls fathers to fast and pray for their daughters on this day, that “God would bless them mightily by providing marriages for them for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

The second is from a single young woman, who encourages young women to pray as well:

“Dear sisters, I feel too many of us are sitting idly by, contentedly refining our homemaking skills while completely oblivious to the spiritual battles the young men of this generation are facing. Contentment is needful. Patient waiting on the Lord is needful. But it's not enough! If you honestly believe the Lord has called you to marriage and a godly family, there is a battle to be won right now on your knees for your future husband and home. The statistics of godly young men should be enough to show us that Satan is trying to destroy the home before it's even begun. Are we neglecting earnest interceedings for that man we will call our own someday? Are we sitting contentedly by in our single life, while our future husbands fight desperately against the countless things that seek to tear down their fervency for God?”

We are called to be “constant in prayer”. (Romans 12:12) Let us pray that God will raise up a generation of young men, exemplary in their youth (1 Timothy 4:12), sober-minded (Titus 2:6-8), and strong in the Lord (1 John 2:14).