Book Buying Binge

I got the urge to go book shopping the other day, so I talked Hobgoblin into traveling to Manhattan to see what we could find. We both came home with a nice stack. We started at Three Lives, headed from there to Partners and Crime, took a walk over to the Strand, stumbled into Shakespeare and Co. for the first time, and ended our trip at Housing Works Cafe. There are at least a handful of other bookshops within fairly easy walking distance that we could have visited, if our backpacks hadn’t already been full and if we weren’t in need of dinner (at one of our favorite places, Chat ‘n Chew).

Here’s what I found:

  • Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I adored The White Album when I read it a year or so ago, and so I wanted another collection of Didion essays. I have her book The Year of Magical Thinking, which I’m looking forward to, but that’s not an essay collection, and I wanted essays.
  • George Orwell’s Facing Unpleasant Facts. You’ll see that I was on a nonfiction kick. I found six great books all at the Strand, which is why I like to go there so much: they have a great section of literary nonfiction that goes on for shelves and shelves — biographies, criticism, essays, memoirs. I usually head straight to that section and don’t emerge until someone makes me. Orwell is an amazing essayist, and I’m happy to read as many essays of his as I can find.
  • David Laskin’s Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals. I read about this book on Zhiv’s blog. Its subjects include Mary McCarthy, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Hannah Arendt, and others, all of which sounds great, plus Zhiv’s enthusiasm was very persuasive.
  • Kathleen Norris, The Virgin of Bennington. I read her book The Cloister Walk a while back, although I don’t remember it well, but she’s always seemed like a writer worth tracking, and the description of this book sounded intriguing: “Shy and sheltered, Kathleen Norris wasn’t prepared for the sex, drugs, and bohemianism of Bennington College in the late 1960s — and when she moved to New York City after graduation, it was a case of our of the frying pan and into the fire.” I’ve been in a mood for memoirs lately, and surely this will be a good one.
  • Mary Gordon’s Good Boys and Dead Girls and Other Essays. I heard about this one from Emily. It’s a collection of essays and reviews, focusing particularly on literature, gender issues, and the Catholic church.
  • David Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. I couldn’t resist this one. Eventually I will read all of Wallace’s work, but I don’t want to read it too fast, so reading about him for a bit will slow that whole process down.
  • And now on to some fiction. I got copy of George Eliot’s Scenes of Clerical Life because I’ve been hankering after some Victorian fiction. I want it to be something I’m sure to love, so Eliot is a safe bet. I have other Victorian novels to read, but sometimes no one else but Eliot will do.
  • Anita Brookner’s The Bay of Angels. When I saw this book at Housing Works, I realized I wasn’t sure whether I had an unread Brookner novel at home or not. Having an unread Brookner novel at home seems like a wise thing to do, so I grabbed this one. It turns out I did have an unread Brookner after all, but now I have two.
  • Robert Walser’s The Tanners. I don’t remember where I’ve read about Walser recently, but I know I have and he sounds intriguing.

So that was our trip. I can’t remember all of the books Hobgoblin got, but one of them was Justin Cronin’s novel The Passage, and he’s downstairs reading it now. I don’t think he’ll want to do anything else but read until he’s finished with the thing.

24 Comments

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24 responses to “Book Buying Binge

  1. SFP

    Did Hobgoblin get one of the autographed copies of The Passage from the Strand?

    That’s a wonderful haul, Dorothy. I read the Didion in college 30 years ago, but I think a lot of the essays in Slouching still hold up.

  2. Cam

    Sounds like a fun trip and lots of good reading ahead of you. I was at 3 Lives a few weeks ago for the first time. It’s a great bookstore. Never been to Shakespeare & Co. and almost went this afternoon. I resisted as I have so many unread books, but there is no guarantee that I’ll have the same amount of willpower tomorrow if I get out of my meetings early enough to go shopping.

    I read all of Didion’s collected essays about 20 years ago. I recall that I liked Sloughing better than the White Album, but I can’t remember why.

  3. Nothing like a stack of new books to bring joy! Have fun with them.

  4. book shopping is my favorite thing to do. In fact I had a little book buying binge myself the other day… picked up a the first two books in the lightening thief series for the kids, and a great crime fiction for me…”Rogues, Riches and Retribution” by Harry Taylor- I was pleasantly surprised that it was somehow different than the normal run of the mill murder stories. All in all I would say it was a great spree!

  5. I’ve been checking out your book shop sites and I am seriously jealous. I want to go to the Housing Works Cafe now. Do they do breakfasts?

  6. What a great haul! I thoroughly recommend Partisans. I read it at the start of the year but never got around to reviewing it, not because it was bad, but because it was excellent and I couldn’t think what to say other than: read it. But you have loads of great non-fiction in that list and I’m interested to hear what you make of all of it!

  7. bookgazing

    What a massive bunch of books, how satisfying your trip must have been. Essay collections always seem to have just shocking titles now. I wonder if that is their way of competing in a world where they don’t get bought as much as novels.

  8. That’s the kind of binge I can get behind!

  9. What a fun book buying binge! I love Orwell’s essays too. I have the four volume set The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters on my shelf and one of these days I’m going to dive in.

    Love the name of the place you ate at!

  10. zhiv

    Nice haul. It was funny to look back on my notes on Partisans, back when I was a baby blogger, but also before I had read or knew much about McCarthy. It was a great book for me, as an introduction, and I think it will be a good book for you. One of the things I don’t mention, that I still remember, is that it’s a wonderful portrait of Greenwich Village before the war. For any more advanced McCarthyites, I’d note that Frances Kiernan’s biography is both a grand experiment in form in literary biography, and a fantastic book. I like it better than Laskin I think, but they’re wonderful companions. Kiernan goes on too long, as lit bios generally do. And Laskin really isn’t about McCarthy, but more about the gang of people and the time. I never did get around to reading Jean Stafford, but this is a good reminder. The McCarthy book I can’t seem to grab hold of and read now is Groves of Academe.

    A sidenote is that I’m bogged down in Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerbohm, which should have been breezy and fun and I don’t know why I’m not more motivated. But the connection is theater reviewing: McCarthy, the smartest girl around, knew that reviewing theater was a solid path towards becoming an essayist and writer (a bit like Elif Batuman’s concept of going to grad school rather than an MFA program). How did she know this–from Bernard Shaw perhaps (now in your stack), and Max Beerbohm built his own reputation by taking over Shaw’s slot as a theater reviewer. Didn’t know any of that until I started ZD.

    Virgin of Bennington is a nice mention: curious about that book, sounds good. If I was you, I’d be tearing into Lipsky’s DFW book: you can only space out the inevitable of finishing DFW for so long, although it will take time. Nothing needs to be said about the George Eliot, but you say it perfectly: sometimes no one else will do.

    Have fun!

  11. I LOVE that Bookstore Cafe — the interior of the place, it looks so cozy and…….. booky-ish!
    Sounds like you have had a wonderful time!

  12. What an amazing haul! I have that Didion but have not yet read it, although I have yet to read anything by her I didn’t love. I was recently told to read Norris, but of course, merely put her into the 2010 chapter of the TBR tome. Maybe we ought to do a duel read of the Gordon sometime soon and set a date that we both post on it?

  13. It’s always good to have an unread Brookner at home. I have two, but unfortunately, until she writes more those will be the last for me. I guess I can always start re-reading them.

  14. “Having an unread Brookner novel at home seems like a wise thing to do” – Oh so true! I have a few waiting for me and it’s nice to know they are there.

    Enjoy your book buys. I want to hear what Hobgoblin says about The Passage. It seems everyone is loving it. Although I’m getting a bit worried that when I finally get to it I’ll be worn out from the buzz!

  15. SFP — no, not an autographed copy, unfortunately. Either they were out or he didn’t see them. So glad to hear that about the Didion!

    Cam — well, I’m glad I have something so good to look forward to in the Slouching book! This was the first time we’d been in Shakespeare and Co.; it was good, although not as good as Three Lives. I can’t believe how much great stuff they fit into a small store.

    Charlotte — you’re so right! Thanks :)

    Becky — I’d definitely say that book shopping is one of my favorite things too! I’m glad you had such a good shopping trip and found such good books.

    Study Window — aren’t I lucky to live within easy visiting distance of those stores? I don’t know about breakfast … that’s definitely something to look into!

    Litlove — I’m glad to hear you liked Partisans so much! Between your recommendation and Zhiv’s, I’m bound to like it, I’m sure. I’m excited about all the nonfiction — it should keep me busy for a while, right?

    Bookgazing — Hobgoblin and I both filled our backpacks as full as they could go — we did our best! :) That’s an interesting thought about essay collections — you may very well be right.

    Lilian — yes, definitely the right kind of binge :)

    Stefanie — oh, a four-volume set of essays, journalism, and letters — wow! That sounds great. That will keep you busy for a while!

    Zhiv — well, that sounds perfect about Partisans, since not only am I fascinated by the people involved, but I’d also love to read about Greenwich Village. Your note that Kiernan’s book is an experiment in literary biography is certainly intriguing. Okay, there, I just added it to my TBR list. Interesting about Zuleika Dobson; I have it and hope to read it some day, so I’m hoping you’re not bogged down in it for reasons that will bog me down too.

    Cipriano — that Cafe is definitely a great place, particularly since you can sit down with your coffee and still look through their bookshelves. At the end of our day, we definitely needed to sit down, and we definitely needed some coffee!

    Emily B. — I love the idea of a dual read, and even of a duel read, as you put it! Does that mean we can do battle with each other, in a friendly way, of course? :)

    Thomas — oh, down to your last two! It will take me a long time before I get there, which is good. But yes, there is always rereading.

    Iliana — Hobgoblin is close to finishing it already, even though it’s a monster-size book. He’s absolutely loving it, so consider this another recommendation!

  16. I haven’t read any of Orwell’s essays, but I’ve been toying with the idea of having an Orwell week-month for a while… I’d be curious to hear some specifically essay thoughts.

    Enjoy the haul!

  17. So glad you were able to find lots of books on your list! I fell a bit off the wagon myself lately, but all this talk of e-books has hit my hoarding nerve, and it was raining in Cape Cod last weekend, so what else could I do? Chris was worse than I was though. :) :)

  18. I think so many bookstore stops would be deadly for me! :) I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem a couple of months ago, but I never got around to posting about it–she’s such a wonderful writer–even if some of the essays were a little beyond me. I think I was a little too young to remember some of the people and events, but there is still lots there to appreciate. I have her White Album that I want to get to eventually. And I’ve not read an Anita Brookner book for ages–she’s another author I’ve really enjoyed and it is good to have an unread book or two by her around.

  19. Yes, let’s call it a “duel” read (damn the stupid “smart” phone, which I never seem to remember to correct) and do battle over petty differences. Seriously, though, if you want to set a date for a dual read, I’m game. (Okay. I did correct the phone this time. It wanted a date “fir” a dual read.)

  20. Love your post title… that’s what I did these past two weekends. Went to a giant book sale and hauled back 20 books in mint condition at $1.50 each. But I admire the more current releases you can get in a bookstore. Joan Didion’s TYOMT is one sombre read, and very poignant… her writing is a triumph over her circumstances.

  21. fantastic haul! I love Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and I hope you do, too – Didion has had an amazing career and she keeps doing incredible work!

  22. Ooh, I just picked up Slouching Towards Bethlehem too, after being enchanted by a couple of Didion essays I read. We’ll have to compare notes when we both get around to the collection.

    And by the way, a previous post of yours about Three Lives led me to recommend it to a friend who just moved to Manhattan & was looking to diversify her bookstore selection – she went & loved it! So thanks for the tip. :-)

  23. I’ll be looking forward to your response to Eliot’s Scenes of Clerical Life. I found the first two stories quite good and the last just couldn’t hold my interest. I need to start over with it, I think, when I’m in the right frame of mind. These stories are interesting to read because they really show (are) the bridge Eliot built from her non-fiction work to fiction.

  24. I’m so jealous! How I’d love to go book shopping. Exciting news, Kindle and Nook are both now selling below $200! Still too pricey, though. I loved The Year of Magical Thinking by Didion. I’d love to read more from her. And the Kathleen Norris sounds interesting. Great selections!

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