Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So Many Books. . .

For years I worked as an editor for the book section of a newspaper. . . back in the good old days when newspapers had book sections. There were many things to like about the job--the chance to meet and talk to famous writers; the camaraderie of spending the day with other people who thought books were important--but perhaps the best perk was getting to take home as many books as I wanted.

It was also the worst thing about working for the section. Years since committing my last crime against literature (i.e., writing my last book review), I find myself with hundreds--perhaps even thousands--of books I've never read. I'll probably never read most of them: So many books, so little time, as we used to say, contemplating the tens of thousands that arrived each year from publishers.

To make matters worse, I used to go to at least two or three used book sales a year, in addition to regularly frequenting any number of secondhand book stores. I don't go to many book sales anymore, finding it too disheartening to contemplate the volume of product by purveyors of assembly-line fiction--"writers" like Stephen King, David Baldacci, and James North Patterson.

There's something depressing about the stacks of BSOs (book-shaped objects), which everyone couldn't wait to get a few months before and then discovered there was no point keeping. There ought to be a law requiring a deposit when you buy BSOs; that way, there'd be incentive to return them to the store after you'd done using them.

Nowadays, I go to a book sale every other year. Last year, I tried the one run by the McLean chapter of the American Association of University Women. It was good enough to make me consider returning to my old habits, only this year with a shopping cart if I buy as many books and records as I did last year.

I'd also like a barcode reader, like the one I've seen people with at other sales. That way I could avoid getting copies of books I already have. For years, I could never remember whether I owned The Journals of Andre Gide, so whenever I ran across a set at a sale, I'd buy them. By the time I realized I was never going to read them, I owned three or four sets.

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