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I’ll Buy That For A Dollar! January 3, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books.
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Recently, a bargain bookstore in my area went from being a remainder outlet to an “every book for a dollar!” disorganized mess of a place and I love ’em for it! The store is no longer merely material from what you’d find in the bargain bins at Borders or Barnes & Noble, but an eclectic assortment of damn near anything from all sorts of possible sources. Some of the books had university bookstore “used” tags on them, some were discarded library books, some were British publications, and others seemed to come from estate sales. I spend a lot of time rooting through area thrift stores that have large and randomly disorganized book selections, so I’m an old pro at meticulously going through shelves and shelves of crap to find the lone prize. So since I’m on vacation, I spent several hours the other afternoon scouring the entirety of the buck-a-book store (it’s the size of the Super Crown that once stood there) and came up with several gems.

To begin with, I found three entries from the graphic Totem “Introducing….” series, which are sort of combine the “For Dummies” books with the approach of Larry Gonick, though they tend to be mostly from a Euro-socialist left wing perspectivve. I already had the Introducing Freud, Jung, I Ching, Quantum Theory, Philosophy and Classical Music editions, and at the buck-a-book store, I found Introducing Buddha (probably the best of the three), Introducing Sociology (Good God, did this bring back memories of relentless attempts at left-wing Marxist indoctrinary bullshit back at Brown), and Introducing Chaos (which made my head implode). These are wonderful easy to read doses of often complex stuff, and I find them great to use in assorted classes, though the books themselves tend to be better the less politically loaded the topic at hand is.

I also found two books with lots of salacious trash about royalty, which is endlessly entertaining. The first, Horrible Histories: Cruel Kings & Mean Queens, one of a series of British children’s books by Terry Deary, makes me want to read everything this guy has done, since he loves to entertain kids with all the sick and twisted aspects of history – check out the second comment on that Amazon page I linked if you want to see how I want my students to respond to knowledge – in other words, he’s my British soul-brother!!! I wonder if he drinks all the same beers I mentioned in an earlier post…

The other entry in this category is Eleanor Herman’s Sex With Kings, which recounts various tales of royal mistresses and what sorts of heaving sweat-drenched adventures in bumpin’ uglies they endured with the best of Europe’s irreperably inbred. I’ve only read a few parts of this one so far, but they were certainly gossipy and delightfully trashy.

One of my favorite historians is James Burke, who has hosted numerous television series, such as Connections or The Day The Universe Changed, that most often trace a seemingly random series of connections to illustrate the development of some modern-day technology or idea. I found a nice first edition of his book The Pinball Effect, one that I had only borrowed from the Burbank library some years ago while researching a book of my own. After all this time, it’s nice to actually snag a copy of it, and only for a buck.

Finally, some material purely for entertainment. A copy of Beyer On Speed, which I’ll most likely study before my June Vegas trip and attempt to (once again, sigh) handicap horse races since there’ll be no football happening; An out-of-print British compilation of quoted insults by Matthew Parris called Scorn, With Added Vitriol, which I’ve already devoured quite an amusing bit of; and finally, for when I’m feeling homesick for Rhode Island, Mike Stanton’s The Prince Of Providence, all about Buddy Cianci and the always gushing fountain of corruption that is Providence. Just in the first chapter alone I’ve found gold! It had a story about the mafia fence who once tried to sell my mom a mink over my dad’s paranoid objections (Rhody is a small state and everyone bumps into everyone else eventually), a story of how young prosecutor Buddy C. proved a priest was lying on the witness stand to protect the then-don Raymond Patriarca from a murder rap, and another tale of how Buddy summed up a murder case against some guy who had strangled his girlfriend and claimed in his defense that she gagged during oral sex by telling the jury “Ladies and gentleman, this woman did not die with a dick in her mouth.”

Oh man, I miss Rhode Island! And I know I’ll enjoy reading the rest of this one!

All in all, not bad for an afternoon’s treasure hunting, and since the weather has ruined yardsales for the past few weeks and looks to do so again this weekend, it looks like I won’t be jonesin’ for new reading material.

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