Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'm Surrounded

As I write this, it's about 12:40 p.m. and I've just finished lunch here in my local Barnes & Noble cafe - not a lunch to brag about, but it will get me through the afternoon. This is something I haven't done for a while and I had forgotten how calming an experience it can be. There is definitely something to be said for spending an hour or so completely surrounded by books and people who actually read them (as my Canadian buddy, Cip, will attest).

I've been reading Hitch 22, last year's Christopher Hitchens memoir for a few days now (should finish it today, I think) and I've been struck by his admiration of George Orwell, an author I only know through the books 1984 and Animal Farm. In one of those moments of serendipity that so often occur, I spotted on a bargain book cart at the store's entrance a copy of the 2002 Hitchens book Why Orwell Matters, a book I didn't even know existed - at the skinflint pleasing price of $3.50. I'll be boring you guys with my thoughts on that one in a few weeks, I suspect.

I also found a discounted copy of Anne Rice's Called Out of Darkness: A Spititual Confession from 2008. This is the book in which Rice explains her return to Catholicism after many years of living life as an atheist. This is another book I missed upon it's publication, but since I've often wondered about Rice's transformation, I jumped all over the chance to grab a copy for six bucks. I'm making an effort to read more nonfiction this year, so both of these books fit right in to my 2011 reading plan.

That's it for now; I can only spare another thirty minutes to hit the shelves upstairs, so I have to run. Have a great Sunday afternoon, everyone.


  1. I'm intrigued by Orwell. I thought Down and Out in London and Paris was nonfiction, but after visiting my local B&N this weekend I was surprised to see it's fiction. (Albeit fiction that relies heavily on Orwell's personal experience.) I thought about picking it up, but it was a fairly cheap edition. Once I find a better one I'll probably take the plunge. Instead I'll probably read Animal Farm for the first time.

  2. Hey, Sam -- such an interesting post -- you know, it's so funny that you mention me, and this habit of my time spent in bookstores because yesterday I did that very thing you did -- I was at a Chapters bookstore for upwards of 5 or 6 hours! I'm not kidding. And as you say, it is so very relaxing, especially when you can now also get a sandwich there.
    Secondly, I read the Hitchens biography last year and I really loved it -- and also noted his interest in Orwell. I have only read 1984 and Animal Farm, like you. [An interesting sidenote about Hitch 22, he never once mentions his own wife or you know, family, at all. I found that quite strange.] And, serendipitously finding that bargain book, don't you just love when that happens?
    There is a little Hitchens volume on Thomas Paine that I would love to similarly stumble across in my travels.
    All the best to you.
    -- Cip

  3. I like this image of you having lunch for an hour in a bookstore! I'd love to do that. We only get 1/2 hour for lunch now, hardly enough time to eat it, never mind run out to the bookstore. I often spend hours at our bookstores here on my way home, or during the weekends, too.

    I have seen Down and Out in Paris around for years, and I thought it was non-fiction and have to confess that that was how I shelved it when I worked in the bookstores! It was certainly written up and sold as such by the publisher.

    Books on sale that we're looking for - it always seems wondrously fortuitous, doesn't it, when it happens? Enjoy your books and I look forward to your thoughts on them!

  4. Pete, I think that I much under-appreicate Orwell. I'm hoping that the Hitchens book will remedy that oversight for me, though. It's a compact little book of just over 200 pages...just about right for a good introduction to the man's achievements, I think.

  5. Cip, I'm keeping my eyes open for that volume on Paine, myself. It sounds very similar in format and purpose to the Orwell book.

    Wow...six hours straight in a bookstore. I don't think I've ever approached that record. Closest I've ever come are those Saturdays when I used to spend the whole day visiting four or five bookstores in succession. Those were the days I was making a little extra cash finding underpriced gems in one store and immediately reselling them to another store at a profit. Sadly, those days are long gone...damn computers.

  6. Susan, I can't think of a more relaxing lunch. Just about the time I was leaving, two little boys, about 6 and 9, came up to their mother at the next table with a STACK of books from the children's section of the store. Each of them must have had at least a dozen books.

    The mom was not fazed. She got out her calculator, punched a few numbers, smiled, and said, "We can afford it." Made my day.