Yes, I made another pass through Borders.

No, I haven’t read the books from the last two trips, but sixty per cent off is too much for any book junkie to resist.  The Borders in my neighborhood is clearing out, but there were still plenty of goodies to be had, and I came away with two hardbacks and five trade paperbacks, about $100 worth of books for which I paid $40.  How could I resist that much shopping fun?

I started in the World History alcove, with an eye out for a book I didn’t find, and picked up two there.  The first was another “blame it on NPR” book, Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood.  That goes on the stack with other books Public Radio interviews have turned me on to:  the fall of the Comanches, the history of Prohibition, and that scholarly biography of James Tiptree Jr.  Further down the shelf I found An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage.  Several decades ago I majored in anthropology and archeology at Florida State University, and I’ve always been interested in the history of foods and their connections to culture.  (I do have a couple of books about edible humanity in my library, from a project involving an Aztec background.)

In the mystery section I spotted a novel by Georgette Heyer, They Found Him Dead.  This is not one of the Regency romances Heyer is most famous for (I have a couple of those, as yet unread, on my Kindle), but a mystery first published in 1937, one of a dozen or so she wrote.  Somehow when I was reading my way through British mysteries of that era, devouring the works of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and Margerie Allingham, I missed Heyer.  I haven’t read anything by Alexander McCall Smith, either, so I picked up The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the first in what has become a very popular series.

On the science fiction racks I found an anthology called Chicks Kick Butt.  The title pretty much says it all.  Some of the names I’m familiar with, some I haven’t read, and the stories should be a good introduction to some new authors.

Not far down the shelf I found a recent edition of a book I have read a number of times, Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank.  Of all the Cold War era after-the-nuclear-holocaust novels, this was one of the best, and my personal favorite.  Written in 1959, when I was a kid being told it was possibly to survive an attack by hiding under my desk, and set in Florida, where I lived at the time, Alas, Babylon is a story of survival and hope.  The copy I found on my shelf when I got home wasn’t quite as far gone as the Wyndham novels I recently replaced, but it was printed in 1970 and cost 95 cents.  It would stand up to another reading or two, but the pages are yellow and the print is small.  I’m glad to have another copy, and I’ll read it again.

I may never read Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum again, but when I saw it on the bargain rack near the front of the store I picked it up.  Put it back.  Picked it up again.  The Tin Drum is a long, dense, complex German novel, written in 1959 and still hugely popular when I was in college in the late 60s.  My friends and I had quotes from the book on our dorm walls.  This edition is a new translation sponsored by Grass himself in time for the novel’s fiftieth anniversary.  It cost me $1.50, in hardback.

Bookshelves were going three for $100.  I was tempted, but I drive a Toyota.  Toyotas have big trunks, and I can fit a lawnmower in my Corolla, but I had to pass on the bookshelves.  I’ll just have to make more space on the ones I have.

Back to Borders, for the last time?

I made another pass through Borders this morning, not looking for anything in particular but unable to resist the increasing discounts.  As it turned out, this is also the last weekend the store is honoring Borders Plus cards with an extra ten per cent off.

The store is still neat and clean, not as crowded as it was the first weekend of the sale but still busier than it ever was before they pulled the plug.  The shelving has become a bit random, but there’s still a lot of stock.  Apparently they are still shipping books to the stores rather than leave them languish in the warehouse (or be stripped and returned to the publishers).

I started with the science fiction shelves.  I haven’t kept up with sf in recent years the way I once did, although I still order fairly regularly from the Science Fiction Book Club.  I do love a good space adventure now and then, and on my last trip to Borders I picked up the first in a series by Ann Aguirre.  Haven’t read it yet, but I found two more installments on the shelf and picked them up (still missing number three).  I also bought Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson, a book I missed when it first came out in 1998.  Alternate history with a gorgeous cover.

Then I went over to the romance shelves, where I found Kieran Kramer’s When Harry Met Molly, a double finalist (for Best First Book and Best Regency) in this year’s Rita contest.  How could someone who loves (and writes) humor resist that title?

On the mystery shelves I found Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn, a handsome trade paperback from a predominantly romance publisher (Mira) which labels the book simply historical fiction.  This is the fourth volume (I think) in a series, so I’ll be jumping into the story.

Back to the front of the store, where I picked up two novels by Melanie Benjamin.  I blame these on National Public Radio, which carried an interview with Benjamin this week about her current release, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, a novel based on the life of its historical heroine, less than three feet tall, who refused to hide from the world.  On the next shelf down was Benjamin’s previous novel, Alice I Have Been, based on the life on Alice Liddell, the original Alice in Wonderland.  I’ve bought a lot of books that I might otherwise never have heard about since our Houston NPR station split into an all-talk channel and an all-music channel.  Maybe I should be listening to the music side more.

Meanwhile, the invisible To Be Read shelf in my Kindle continues to expand.  On the previous Borders expedition, I bought the last volume in a set of four by Zoë Archer, an alternate nineteenth-century fantasy series called The Blades of the Rose.  I didn’t find any more of those today, but I remembered seeing the series at Amazon.  Checked this afternoon and found all four bundled into one file for $9.99.  Click.  Now available on my Kindle, four more novels . . .

Not a contemporary setting in the stack today.  I am currently reading It Had to Be You, by my good friend Cheryl Bolen, on my Kindle, a novel set in Los Angeles before and during (and maybe after–I’m at the 60% mark) World War II.  The serious side of the novel deals with the unconscionable treatment of the Japanese living in California in those years;  the fun part covers Hollywood and teems with well-known names of writers and actors.  Cheryl’s done a terrific job of making life in the Los Angeles of the thirties and forties an integral part of the novel.

Is there a twelve step program for book-aholics?

The Going Out of Business sale at Borders Books

is more than any self-respecting book junkie can resist, of course.  I pulled into the parking lot at my local Borders about 10:45 this morning and had to search for a parking space.  The store teemed with shoppers filling baskets, and there was already a sort of jumble sale air about the place.  Signs proclaimed “Discounts Up to 40%,” but most of the rack signs promised ten to thirty percent.  They were still honoring Borders cards for another ten percent off, so I walked out with five paperbacks, two DVDs, and a greeting card for $53.

I surely didn’t need more books (or movies):  I got two in the mail a few days ago, and downloaded five to my Kindle this week, thanks to a sale at Amazon.  So I took advantage of this trip to buy books by authors I haven’t read yet, women I either met or heard good things about at the recent RWA conference, all somewhere on the paranormal to science fiction romance scale: Molly Harper, Zoe Archer, Marjorie Liu, Robin D. Owens, and Ann Aguirre.  Also replaced my ancient videotape copy of Cabaret with a DVD and picked up a copy of Master and Commander, which I keep missing on TV, just for the pleasure of spending an evening looking at Russell Crowe.  I was also looking for the daybooks I use for record keeping, which I bought at Borders last year, but apparently they’d had the foresight not to order anything dated 2012.

I’m always sorry to see any book store close, be it a Big Box giant or a tiny used paperback shop in a strip mall.  Borders isn’t the first to vanish.  I remember a chain called MediaPlay that flourished briefly in the mid to late 90s selling books, music, movies (on videocassettes) and computer software.  And BookStop, which was devoured by Barnes & Noble.  Then the big guys pushed a lot of the little ones under.

But in all honesty, I can’t say that I’ve done much to support the brick and mortars over the last few years.  I’ve belonged to various branches of the Doubleday Book Club for decades: the Science Fiction Book Club and the Mystery Guild since the late 1960s, and Rhapsody, the romance club, more recently.  The SF and Mystery clubs kept me going for years when I lived far from the nearest book store, long before Amazon invented on line book sales.

These days I buy books on line from the clubs and from Amazon.  I buy regularly from a wonderful independent book store called Katy Budget Books, but I have only set foot in that store a few times (it’s about fifty-five miles from my home); KBB is the book supplier for West Houston RWA, bringing books by our guest speakers, our members, and other books of interest to our chapter meetings every month.  Now and again I stop at the local Barnes & Noble, usually when I have a gift card.  I shop at Half-Price Books a lot.

As for Borders, about a year and a half ago I did a lot of Christmas shopping there, and in the process picked up one of their upgraded loyalty cards.  It paid for itself on that shopping spree, and brought me 40% discount coupons by email on a regular basis.  I used those mostly to order DVD sets (mostly of old BBC TV series) from Borders.com.  I understand Borders came late to the ebook party, but so did I.  I bought a Kindle, and I don’t know much about the Kobo, but I believe it falls well below the Kindle and the B&N Nook in sales.

Maybe the decline of the Big Box book stores and the rise of independent publishing will open new doors for small specialized booksellers.  There are still a a few of those thriving in the Houston area.  Those of us who love books and book stores should be doing more to support them.

Just what I need–a reason to buy more books.

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