Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Thrill of the Book Hunt

Scott D. Parker

I can still remember the telephone number of my childhood home. Can you?

It’s a funny thing, memorizing telephone numbers. Back in the day, you had either to memorize a number someone gave you or write it down on whatever slip of paper was handy. Now, all you have to do is talk to your smartphone and it’ll do the work for you. Create a contact, type in the name, and, from then on, all you have to do is say “Call Tom Bombadil” and the smartphone does the rest.
You don’t even have to memorize the number anymore. Some might say that’s progress. It is, to some extent. Some might say that something so mundane as memorizing phone numbers can be eliminated from our daily mental lives in favor of something more important. Like watching TV, right?

Back in the day—I’m forty eight now—when there was a disagreement on the playground over the air date of the Star Trek episode “A Taste of Armageddon,” there was only a few ways to resolve the conflict: either have a copy of Starlog #1—which listed all the episodes and air dates—or a copy of James Blish’s book. Or have someone old enough to remember, but the chances that they would would be next to nil. Nowadays, all you have to do to remember an air date, the singer of this song that just came on the radio but you can’t for the life of you remember who sang it, or the number of quarts in five gallons of gasoline is pull out your cell phone and look it up. Google is fantastic.

But Google is also a crutch. I’ve taken a new tactic when it comes to things I certainly should know or remember but the answer is not coming to me: wait five minutes. Chances are there are two things at work here. One, you probably don’t need the information Right-This-Minute so you can afford to wait. Two, the answer, most likely, will come to you in those five minutes. Then, you’ve avoided the Google crutch and exercised your brain. Win win.

How does this relate to books? I enjoy frequenting used bookstores and I do it regularly. In the age of the internet, I can type in the title of a particular novel that I want to read and locate a copy within seconds. Then, if I truly want the title, I can most likely buy it. Wait a few days and viola! The novel is in my hands. That is immensely cool.

But part of the fun of buying used books is the hunt itself. In the late 70s and early 80s, I searched for the Star Trek Log books by Alan Dean Foster. I ended up finding one on a vacation to Boise, Idaho. The thrill of the find was in almost equal proportion to the concept that I traveled half a continent to find it. I’ve got a low-burn search for all of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Cool and Lam books. I don’t have all thirty yet, but I’m getting there. For the longest time, I vaguely remembered from the early 80s. The cover was unique. It showed an image of a rocket being launched but instead of an American flag, it had a Confederate flag. I wanted to find that book.

And I did. In 2001 in Portland, Oregon. The find was accompanied with an incredible thrill of a hunt completed.

The thrill of the book hunt. There’s something to that.

There’s more. A few times, there have been in my hands a book I more or less want to read, but I know that if I take it home that very day, it would just sit there, unread, for weeks or months or years. The key there is “more or less.” If I truly want the book, I buy it. But if I’m wishy-washy, I’ve put it back back on the bookstore shelf, confident that I’ll find it again. Or maybe it was that I wanted the hunt again.

Have y’all ever resisted the urge to click on the internet and just buy a book rather than scour used bookstores? Certainly I’m not the only one who enjoys the book hunt, am I?

What is your favorite book hunt story?

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Usually I will just order it online because the used bookstores around me are not good enough to count on. LI9-4097. We still used names LI was Livingston. And when I was really small, we had a party line.