The closing of an independent bookstore always results in a barrage of mixed feelings for me. I’m saddened when I find out that a local bookstore is going out of business, and also feel guilty that I never visited the store more often (or at all) before its decline – there’s always the sense that I, in my own small way, contributed to the closing. And then my excitement over the going-out-of-business deals makes me feel like some sort of carrion bird, gleefully picking at the carcass of something that was beautiful once. It’s callous, really, the way I descend on closing bookstores and pick through their heavily-discounted wares that I never appreciated before. But on the other hand…cheap books.
I visited Books Again for the first time when I was a freshman in college – the weekend my parents dropped me off, we had some free time to wander around Decatur and ended up spending some time in the store. I didn’t buy anything, but remember being struck by the impressive amount of beautiful, old books in the store – Books Again specializes in rare and antique books, and their collection is lovely – as well as the deaf white cat who was sleeping in the front window, and was always in the same spot whenever I walked by the store after that (as far as I’m concerned, my independent bookstore experience isn’t complete until I spot at least one live-in cat wandering amongst the shelves). After that, I mostly forgot about the store until I was walking by a few weeks ago and saw, to my dismay, a giant “Going Out of Business” sign in the front window. At that point, everything in the store was 50% off, but when I stopped in two days ago, the ante had been upped to an unbelievable 70% off. So, in case any readers are in or near the Atlanta area, please find a way to get yourself to Books Again and take advantage of this. It’s too late to save the store, but the least we can do is help the owners get rid of some of their stock and make as much money as they can. But move fast, dear readers: when I was in the store, I overheard the owners telling another customer that Books Again will be shutting its doors in two weeks. Guys, they have some amazing stuff, and are practically giving it away.
I spent two hours poking around the (relatively small) store, and came out with seven books, all hardcover except for one. Total damage? $25.36, and I have the receipt to prove it. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, and I made my choices based more on, “Hey, this seems like a good thing to own” more than any more specific reason. I was also able to find some good gifts for people, and for that reason, I’m going to omit one of my purchases from this list, because the book’s recipient reads this blog and I don’t want to ruin the surprise (hi Mom). So, without further ado, here was what I found at Books Again:
1. Burton on Burton by Tim Burton, edited by Mark Salisbury
This is going to be a Christmas gift for one of my friends, who is a huge Burton fan. I think she’ll appreciate that the book was published in 1995, which means not having to read about Burton trying to explain his adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or any of his other less-than-stellar recent productions. This book starts with Burton’s days working for Disney and, starting with his short film Vincent, he goes through the process for each of his projects, ending with Ed Wood. After doing a bit of research on this book, I learned that a paperback edition was reprinted in 2000 and updated to include Sleepy Hollow. Honestly, I don’t think my friend will miss it.
2. Legends of the Celts by Frank Delaney
Because one can never own enough mythology books. Being half-Irish, I’ve always wanted to learn more about its history (I’m always on the lookout for a good, comprehensive history of Ireland when I visit bookstores) and am especially interested in Celtic myths. This seemed like a good introduction.
3. Venice by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg
This was the only genuinely antique book that I bought – based on what I could tell from flipping through it in the store, the authors were two expatriates who lived in Venice and decided to write a guidebook/history about it. It’s a brick of a book, with original illustrations (each one protected by a sheet of tissue paper, natch), and it takes the reader through the different tourist attractions of Venice. Did I mention that it was published in 1916? Did I mention that it’s about Venice? Did I mention that the guy who wrote it was named Lonsdale? How was I not supposed to buy it?
4. Letters by Mary Wortley Montagu
I couldn’t find a picture of the cover for this one, so the one above will have to work as a substitute. The book I found consists only of the letters that Montagu wrote – there isn’t even an editor credited. Mary Wortley Montagu was the wife of a British ambassador in the 18th century, and is most well-known for the letters she wrote while her husband was stationed in Turkey. Aside from dispelling popular myths about the Middle East, and specifically women in the Middle East, Montagu gave people the first look into a previously-hidden and romanticized world. She also introduced smallpox vaccines to England, which is pretty badass. I wrote a paper on her in college, and thought it would be good to have my own volume of the letters she wrote during her travels.
5. Richard the Third by Paul Murray Kendall
Despite my long-standing Tudor obsession, I’ve only read one book about the Wars of the Roses, and know very little about the people and circumstances that acted as the catalyst for the Tudor dynasty. I’ve never read a nonfiction book about Richard III, and I think he’s a fascinating figure, to say nothing of his historical reputation and how it’s been distorted and re-written over time, and only recently rehabilitated. This book was published in 1956, so I’ll be interested to see how Kendall chooses to portray his subject.
6. The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton
I first heard about this story through Netflix, which suggested I watch the miniseries based on this book after I binge-watched all of Downton Abbey. I devoured Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, but almost didn’t buy this one because, as I learned from reading the jacket description, it’s unfinished. Or, more technically, Wharton died before she could complete the novel and it was finished by Marion Mainwaring, who used Wharton’s notes and outlines to pick up where the author had left off. This turned me off initially, but ultimately I decided to give it a shot. And with the discount, this book cost me less than $5, so I won’t be upset if I end up disliking it.
That was definitely my biggest haul in recent memory, but it was worth it. I saw at least three other books that I considered buying while I was in the store, so I’m planning a second trip in the next few days. I’ll be sure to let you guys know what I walk away with.