Welcome back to Part 2 of my book-buying adventures in Chicago! I’m going to be really upfront with you guys: I may have gone a bit overboard with this store. Spoiler alert: I visited Myopic Books twice and ended up buying a total of seven books. Which, when you add that to the three books I had already bought at Centuries and Sleuths, means that I left Chicago with ten new books. My suitcase was heavy, let’s just say that.
But guys, I couldn’t resist. After the relative disappointment that was Centuries and Sleuths, I went into Myopic Books with lowered expectations, and I was immediately in love. This was more like it.
Myopic Bookstore is three stories, each one packed to the gills with books – as you can see from the photo, they make use of every inch of shelf space available, and there’s even an extra floor where they built a walkway and crammed a few bookshelves on the landing between the first and the second floor. It was a glorious mess of every genre imaginable, crammed into tall shelves with as little space as possible between them. It was heaven. I took a few photos before noticing the signs asking me to please not take pictures, so apologies for not being able to provide more pictures of the space (the above photos are from the store’s Facebook page). On my first visit, I was only there for about an hour, but the next day I came back and spent three hours. In addition to having a much better selection than Centuries and Sleuths, this was an actual used bookstore, which meant that the price of a paperback averaged about eight dollars. I didn’t save my receipt from the store so I can’t be sure how much I spent, but I think it was about the same amount I had spent on the three new books from the other store. Here’s what I ended up with:
1. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
I’ve wanted to read this ever since I read The Hours, where one of the heroines is mentioned reading this book during a pivotal scene, and my interest in it only grew after I learned that this is one of those Very Important Feminist Texts that someone probably should have made me read in college. Better late than never. And based on the plot description, it sounds very similar to the structure of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (an author tells multiple stories, including excerpts from a made-up novel), which I’m always on board for.
2. The Skull Beneath the Skin (Cordelia James #2) by PD James
I’ve never been a fan of Jane Austen, so I never had any interest in PD James’s most famous recent book, Death Comes to Pemberley (although who knows – maybe the antics of the Bennett sisters will finally become interesting if they have to solve a murder in between navigating the social constraints of their nope I’m already asleep). But PD James has been a famous mystery author for decades, and has been on my shortlist of authors-to-read for a while now. Myopic Bookstore had several of her books in stock, but this one in particular caught my eye, based on the synopsis: Lady detective Cordelia Gray is hired by the famous actress Clarissa Lisle to accompany her on vacation and figure out who’s threatening her life. I’m totally on board, although was mildly disappointed to flip through the book later and learn that the story seems to take place in modern day – I don’t know why, but whenever I read a book about a girl detective I always just assume it’s set in the 1930’s, and am always disappointed if it turns out I’m wrong.
3. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean
Look, as much as I love animals, I never thought I would spent money on damn dog biography. Even if it was written about arguably the most famous dog ever to appear onscreen, it’s still a biography about a dog. In fact, I was about to put this back on the shelf when I noticed that author of this particular dog biography was Susan Orlean. Guys, I don’t know much about Susan Orlean, but I do know that whatever she chooses to write about will be instantly rendered fascinating by her scary talent, so I couldn’t resist. I figured that if Orlean considered Rin Tin Tin interesting enough to write about, I would find him interesting too. Everyone loves a bit with a dog, after all.
4. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
I bought this as a belated birthday gift for one of my friends, who is a nonfiction writer and is always looking for new essay collections. I had heard of Sloane Crosley’s previous collection, I Was Told There Would Be Cake, and had a vague recollection of reading a review that claimed this book was better, so I figured, why the hell not. I actually sat down in one of the chairs in Myopic (one of my criteria for a good bookstore: plenty of chairs where you can sit and read and no one bothers you) and read the first essay, which is about Crosley having a pre-30th-birthday panic and deciding to travel to Lisbon by herself. It was funny (not laugh-out-loud funny, more smirk-funny) and well-written, so hopefully the rest of the collection is similar.
5. True Stories by Margaret Atwood
Considering what a die-hard Atwood fan I am, it’s somewhat surprising that I’ve never read any of her poetry (well, I guess The Penelopiad can be considered poetry). I’ve never really been a huge poetry fan, but flipping through this book in the store, I saw enough to make me want to buy this. Looking forward to seeing how Atwood’s poetry compares to her prose.
6. A History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones
TD Kendrick’s A History of the Vikings wasn’t enough to abate the Viking kick I’ve been on lately, so I decided to try another non-fiction book on the subject. My biggest issue with Kendrick’s book was that he was focused mainly on what the Vikings did abroad, while I was much more interested in learning about their day-to-day lives. Jones’s book has chapters on religion and social structure, two aspects that Kendrick’s book were lacking, so I think I’ll enjoy this one a lot more.
7. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
I love Rebecca with all my crooked heart, but have never really heard of any of du Maurier’s other books. This shouldn’t suggest that she was some kind of one-hit-wonder, but I was a little apprehensive that this book couldn’t live up to her masterpiece. If I’m being honest with myself, I know that it probably won’t, but I wanted to see what else du Maurier was capable of writing. And hey – this one is about time travel. More specifically, a man agrees to be part of a scientific experiment that enables him to travel back in time, and he eventually becomes more invested in his life in the past than in the present. Du Maurier and time travel? Sign me up.