Bookcation 2015 — Part 1, Wherein two valiant explorers fail to sell their wares and yet still find a profit.

Once a summer, my Bride and I vacation in the fair city of Madison and look at used books. I’ve written up our voyages before. We returned today from our yearly jaunt, and I’m writing up our adventures again!

This year we held a sacred quest. A good friend just took a job teaching fifth and sixth grade. When he arrived at his classroom, he found not a single book. We’ve made it our goal to fill out his library with as many appropriate books as we could. On the way home we stopped by his place and dropped off the 38 books we found for him, so I won’t be saying a whole lot about those, except that some of them I really should have kept for me. Because, really, what’s more important: his classroom of young, impressionable children, or my bloated library?

We held a secondary quest. Years ago a friend left us a huge classroom read-along-sized copy of Dick and Jane. We figured the thing was worth money, so we toted it with us to Browzers of downtown Madison. They specialize in rare books. The first time I went in there, they had a first edition Wizard of Oz that made me drool so much I could have drowned the Titanic. Oh, man. I want that book.

Anyway, we parked our requisite half-mile away and I toted the huge awkward box… to find out they only buy estates and large libraries. Guy wouldn’t even look at it.

Maybe we should have called ahead. 

We browsed but ended up picking up nothing. The place is great, but they specialize in, well, rare books, and our budget was limited. At these bookcations we typically haunt the bargain bins, and a bargain bin this place is not.

After a jaunt back to the car and a stop for lunch (Parthenon, for some fantastic gyros and honestly the best fries I may have ever had), it was time to stop at A Room of One’s Own, also in downtown Madison. If you’re ever in Madison, look at this place. So very well worth your time. We haunted their back bargain rooms. (That’s right: rooms. Multiple. Oh, rejoice!)

The first thing I spotted back there, and probably the one I’m most looking forward to reading, is The Four Immigrants Manga. Yeah, the title isn’t that scintillating. However, the subject matter fascinates me.

The cover really looks like a textbook, doesn’t it?

Basically, Henry Jiyama immigrated to San Fransisco from Japan in the late 1920’s. In 1931 he published a gag-strip comic book detailing his experiences and early Asian American struggles. I love historical books like this. I don’t mean books about history; I mean books written decades ago that reveal more about the time because it’s being written as people are living it. Just such neat stuff.

Harry Turtledove writes great alternate history fiction, and my favorite series of his is “Crosstime Traffic.” The basic premise is that one earth has figured out how to jump universes, and uses that knowledge for commerce. This particular title, Gunpowder Empire, features a Roman Empire that never fell. I enjoyed Curious Notions, which I think I picked up last year, which is also in this series. So, yay, another one!

By the cover, I would have guessed early 1800’s United States, but what do I know?

I recently read The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen. A good friend has recommended the author to me numerous times, so when I saw one of his books for a dollar, I snapped it up. Here’s the back cover description:

Imagine a society whose unborn children are controlled more strictly than their parents… and you have imagined the world of Love Conquers All, where Zero Population Growth has been achieved and at last the world’s resources have caught up with demand. The means of control: sexual permissiveness. There are no limits on where, why, when, or with whom. The only dirty word is “no.” But when a wife and mother chooses to bear a third child rather than lose it in the name of Family Planning, all the weapons of a controlled society are turned upon her. Is rampant, coercive liberalism the worst tyranny of all?

The book’s copyright is 1974, a year after Roe v. Wade. Makes me wonder how much that affected Saberhagen in this imagined setting which… well, is it that much imagination? I also wonder how much Brave New World is in it. This is another one I’m really looking forward to.

Apparently George Lucas also conquers all, based on the cover, but you already knew that.

Also in the “prophetic science fiction” category lies Mockingbird by Walter Tevis. The back of the book says:

In a dying world where humans are drugged and lulled by electronic bliss, where there is no art, no literature, and there are no children, where some would rather burn themselves alive than endure, Spofforth is the most perfect machine ever created. But his only desire is the impossible — to cease to be. Yet there is hope in this bleak, depressing time, hope in the passion and joy and in books, hope for the future, hope even for Spofforth.

OK, not a whole lot to go on there. Book’s from 1980, too, so really, the “sad future because of tv” had been well-trod at that point. Knowing more about the author builds my intrigue with this one, though: He wrote The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1963, and then fell into a bottle for almost twenty years. Four years before he died from cancer, though, he released a flurry of books, and this is one of them. It’ll be interesting to read what a man who knows he is dying will write.

oooo… dystopia!

We’ve started picking up Madeleine L’Engle books on sheer reflex, and The Small Rain made it into our basket because of it. It’s not science fiction or speculative at all. In fact, it’s her first novel, about a musician trying to find her way in the world. I want to reread A Wrinkle in Time and then tackle this, just to see how her style evolved.

No winged centaurs in this book, I’d wager! Certainly none of the cover. No wings at all, in fact!

Next up was Pirates of Barbary by Adrian tinniswood. I first learned about the Barbary pirates from an excellent history by C. S. Forester. The first international war our nation ever fought, and how much do you know about it, eh? This book takes primary sources from centuries before our war that put down the pirates and reveals much about how the pirates operated. I’m excited!

I’m fairly certain Jack Sparrow won’t be showing up, and I’m completely ok with that.

My Bride found Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination. The stories might a lot of imagination, but the title sure lacks it. It looks… well, I’ve experienced a little bit of Japanese horror, and it’s not American horror. And this apparently is Japanese horror. I’ll sample it, but I’m really not sure I’ll finish it. Even reading the story descriptions on the back of the book is… interesting.

The chair has hands. It may be best not to ask questions. Go watch a Miyazaki film. It’s better for your soul, anyway.

My Bride picked out The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart for herself. I really can’t say much about it other than its title. It’s a nifty title. Also, the boy can’t feel any strong emotion or his heart will stop functioning.

Sucks to be a Jedi, don’t it, kid?

And then with fear and trembling we picked up Air by Geoff Ryman. The reviews are… heartily mixed. It’s about the last village in the world that doesn’t have “air,” which seems to be wireless internet straight to the brain. I like the high concept, but the negative review frighten me a little. Whatever. It was $3. We bought it.

Apparently an eyeball made of air? I dunno. I don’t design covers, I just judge books by them.

So, we pillaged the bargain rooms, and that’s what we found.

And then we went to the room full of uncorrected proofs. Moar pillaging!

But I think that’s enough for one night. I’ll post more tomorrow about more books we got!

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