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Category Archives: bibliomania strikes again

>I Had A Little Gift Card & I Stomped That Sucker Flat

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Actually, the gift card was HUGE. Generous, by anyone’s standards. A (totally undeserved) reward from the other members of last fall’s Writing Center pilot program. We snickeringly referred to ourselves as the Fundamentals for Universal Communicable Knowledge and just barely managed to keep that out of our final report. We had vision and we had fun.

A gift card?! Wow. Just wow. Careening through What The Book? like a hog on ice was a thing of joy forever. Thanks, Team [Acronym]! Here’s how I spent your hard-earned money:

1. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand. I loved Seabiscuit, and I know I’ll feel the same about her latest offering.

2. Cake Wrecks – Jen Yates. I got this one for the Foodie Challenge. My choice is my old friend Vicki Cheatwood’s fault; she got me addicted to the website.

3. Easy Livin’ Microwave Cooking – Karen Kangas Dwyer. Another for the Foodie Challenge and a chance to prove that I can turn out meals that make people gasp (in the preferred way) without breaking down and buying an oven.

4. Happy Birthday Or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee And Other Family Disasters – Annie Choi. I wonder if she pronounces her name Choy, like it’s spelled or Chae, like my students do. Anyway, a humorous memoir about her Korean-American family.

5. The Grifters – Jim Thompson. Oooooh my favorite noir guy. I saw this movie several years ago and liked it.

6. A Hell of a Woman – Jim Thompson. Can’t go wrong here. This was originally published in 1954, when Thompson was on fire.

7. The Boys of Summer – Roger Kahn. Kahn grew up “in shouting distance of Ebbets Field” during the 1930s and 40s, then for a couple of years in the 1950s, he covered the Brooklyn Dodgers as a young sportswriter. For my baseball shelf.

8. The Rookie – Jim Morris. AKA The Oldest Rookie. Jim Morris was in the minors for a while, then gave it up for coaching high school baseball. At age 35, he got another incredible chance to be in The Show. A true story and a movie by Disney starring Dennis Quaid. Also for my baseball shelf.

9. The Inner Circle – T.C. Boyle. This time, Boyle takes on sex studies pioneer Alfred Kinsey. After having such an enjoyable time with The Women, I can hardly wait.

10. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down – Anne Fadiman. I will always love Anne Fadiman (read that last phrase while hearing in your mind’s ear a complete string section backing Whitney Houston’s vocals) because of Ex Libris, her quirky memoir about being a book lover. In this nonfiction work, Fadiman looks at a terrible culture collision between a Hmong family who has a daughter with epilepsy and American doctors at a small hospital in California.

11. The Road Past Altamont – Gabrielle Roy. Yay! I discovered another Canadian author! Take me to Tim Horton’s and set me up with a double-double.

12. From Here To Eternity – James Jones. Time for another World War II novel. This is my first outing with James Jones, although I’ve seen the movie version two or three times. I’m imagining that the book will be sort of like Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead. This beat-up mass market paperback edition with that divine aged-book smell clocks in at 955 pages.

>February 2011: Book Buying

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>After acquiring a huge load of (I lost count after 30) books last month for free, you’re probably thinking: No. She could not have possibly gone out and bought books. Well, of course I could and did. You must be thinking of someone else. I almost made it through the month without opening my wallet, but books happen. Two of them this time:

1. The Sum and Total of Now – Don Robertson. I bought Robertson’s wonderful The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread back in April, 2008 and gobbled it down almost as fast as the object in the title. I never meant for three years to pass before buying the rest of the trilogy. One night about a week ago, I woke up with the sweaty dreadful conviction that the new edition of The Sum and Total of Now was going to become as difficult to find and as expensive as its hardback ancestor from the late 1960s. To hell with that. I made my move.

2. The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened – Don Robertson. Bird is the word. A body in motion tends to remain in motion. Plus, my Inner Completeist Bookworm was clamoring for me to complete the trilogy. I had to. Buying the second book and not the third would have been like playing only the first three notes of Beethoven’s 5th.

I suppose I should feel ashamed of my book gluttony, but when I think of those two books winging their way across the ocean to be with me, I can’t help but feel pleased. In fact, I would like nothing more than to set up a lawn chair in the lobby of my apartment building and spend the days with my eyes trained on the wall of mailboxes until they arrive.

>It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah

>This continues to be my lucky month. Last week, my co-worker Mike came back from Canada “with a shit-tonne of books”. He immediately sent out an invitation to friends and neighbors to come over and grab the old books he’d culled from his shelves to make room for the new. Since Mike’s collection (as well as his sub-collections) is fresh and winsome with beguiling whiffs of quirkiness, I headed over there with The Spawn, who came to visit for a few days.

Although culling is becoming more and more of an elusive concept for me to grasp, never let it be said that I don’t help out my friends in their time of need. Here’s what I brought back to the now dangerously bulging Bybee-ary:
1. Mike Nelson’s Movie Megacheese – Mike Nelson. Funny, funny guy. I already peeked into this 2000 collection and read his review of The Bridges of Madison County. It made me laugh in that embarrassing way that comes out all snortified.
2. Race Matters – Cornel West. I’ve heard a lot about this book and also read a couple of excerpts from it over the years.
3. Gang Leader for a Day – Sudhir Venkatesh. What began as a graduate school project turned into several years of friendship with a gang leader and an inside view of gritty life on the street.
4. How Right You Are, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse. My first Wodehouse book. Yes, that’s a tear of joy.
5. Meridian – Alice Walker. I’ve only read her short stories and The Color Purple, so I’m eager to check out her early novels.
6. Music for Chameleons – Truman Capote. Except for In Cold Blood, I’ve never read any Capote. This looks like a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction in one volume.
7. King Solomon’s Mines – H. Rider Haggard. Ever since reading The Lost City of Z, I’ve wanted to read some Rider Haggard.
8. Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir – Graham Roumieu. I thought this was a children’s picture book at first, so I grabbed it for the Children’s Lit class I’ll be teaching in now less than a week (eeeee!). Ooops. Here’s an excerpt from near the front of the book: Stink Yes, everyone know Bigfoot smell like shit. Please make effort not to point out every time you see Bigfoot. Thank you. Oh well. Still looks like fun, and there’s a bonus I just discovered: I was hoping that since Mike is Canadian and Roumieu looks like a French name, that Graham Roumieu was Canadian. Yes, he is! Yay, another one for the Canadian Book Challenge! Maple Leaf me!!!

9. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark. A nice Penguin copy with a still from the movie on the cover.

10. Of Human Bondage – W. Somerset Maugham. I already have a copy, but I love the Bantam Classic cover.

11. Love Me: A Novel – Garrison Keillor. Not sure about this one, but Mike, that silver-tongued so-and-so, glibly persuaded me to take it. I have a big culture gap concerning Lake Wobegon and Keillor, but he’s from Minnesota, my new favorite state, so yah, you betcha, gotta give it a go.
Good thing I brought The Spawn along. I only meant for him to experience Mike’s collection firsthand (he was mesmerized by the graphic novel subcollection), but he proved to be effective as my beast of burden. After that, he rested up and went to Suwon the next day to meet a former exchange student from his alma mater for lunch. Somehow, they drifted into a bookstore. That’s my boy. He came back a few hours later with a copy of The Mist by Stephen King for himself and a copy of Carrie for me! That’s my boy!

>People Go Away But Their Books Stay


People are moving out of my apartment complex in droves this month. Happens every year. It’s the expat way. People get that anywhere but here feeling and go in search of their ‘real life’ which is either beckoning them seductively from a new and mysterious locale or standing on a back porch in their own native country screeching imperatives. People start packing, then they get that other feeling: Damn. Books are heavy. Enter Bybee, with a tear in one eye and a gleam of anticipation in the other. Thanks to my wanderlusty compatriots, I’ve picked up about 30 books in as many days. Here’s my haul from last night:
1. The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons. All about Monty Python. 359 pages of photos and fun. A must for fans. The best kind of coffee table book. Heavy as hell because of that slick paper, so this won’t be going with me on the subway.
2. The Eyes of the Dragon – Stephen King. Dan K., the previous owner of most of these books, had a lot of King. I was looking for Carrie, but any King is good. There’s a lot I haven’t read yet.
3. Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abagnale. I liked the movie.
4. Hearts in Atlantis – Stephen King. King takes on Vietnam. Hmm…
5. Insomnia – Stephen King. I’ve been wanting to read this.
6. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert. Maybe time for a reread.
7. Myths and Legends of India. Looks like fun.
8. Aquariums of Pyeongyang: Ten Years in the North Korea Gulag – Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot. Sandra loaned me her copy of this one. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, so I can get her copy back to her and keep this one on the TBR.
9. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski. Same thing, except change Sandra to Jill.
10. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene. I really need to read some GG. It’s one of my literary gaps.
11. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen. About three or four years ago, every single blog was Jane! Jane! Jane! Now that everyone’s moved on to the Brontes or Edith Wharton, I can assert my contrarian streak and enjoy Austen’s greatest hit again. I like that I found the Oxford edition. All those explanatory notes in the back are great, geeky fun.
12. My War at Home – Masuda Sultan. The author’s parents immigrated from Afghanistan to the United States when she was five. At seventeen, they married her off to a doctor. After three years, she was able to get a divorce, which was almost unheard-of. This memoir is about that as well as an examination of being a Muslim in America and her trips back to Afghanistan. The style is really engaging. I’m looking forward to reading this and loaning it to my friends.
13. First, They Killed My Father – Loung Ung. I borrowed this book from one of my coworkers back in 2005. Harrowing reading. I learned a lot about Cambodia and the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. Everyone should read this and also Wild Swans.
14. When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After The White House – Patricia O’Toole. TR had an eventful life. I’m sure his emeritius years were just as fascinating, or maybe more.
15. Confessions of an Econimic Hit Man – John Perkins. I’m not sure why I picked this up. The fever was upon me, no doubt.
16. His Excellency – Joseph J. Ellis. A biography of George Washington. His birthday’s coming soon.
17. Nothing Like It In The World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 – Stephen E. Ambrose. I didn’t realize that some of this construction went on during the Civil War.
18. John Adams – David McCullough. I’ve been circling this one for a while. I want to read it then watch the miniseries starring one of my main crushes, Paul Giamatti.
19. Truman – David McCullough. OH MY GOD YES!!!!!! I’m so happy to find this biography! I started a library copy back in 1997 after visiting the Truman Library in Independence but didn’t finish it before it was due. I’ve seen it in several bookstores here, but even patriotism couldn’t induce me to overcome my laziness and tote the 1,117-pager home. Now it’s mine and I will finish! Probably not a subway book, though. Of course, it’s been so long since my last attempt, I’m going to have to start over.
Thanks so much to Faulkner Guy, Alex, Arlene, Amy and Dan. I’ll miss you all like hell, but I’ve got your books here to comfort me.

>January 2011: Book Buying

13 books bought this month. This bookworm in overdrive is starting off with what promises to be a bad trend — I’m acquiring faster than I’m reading. Gotta slow it down. It could have been worse, though. During a recent visit to What The Book? I saw two Jim Thompson novels I haven’t read yet: A Hell of a Woman and The Grifters. Also, I wanted a copy of Stephen King’s Carrie and have had no luck finding it, which I find a little odd.

Sorry To Be So Cheerful – Hildegarde Dolson. While I was reading We Shook the Family Tree in December, I became achingly nostalgic for Dolson’s 1955 follow-up about her life as a “spinster” living in Greenwich Village, so I ordered a copy from Amazon. I can hardly wait to get reaquainted with Dolson’s adventures as a “true drab blonde”, her encounter with etiquette queen Emily Post and I’m especially eager to reread the hilarious chapter ‘Say Hemlock and Flop’ in which Hildegarde, who is suffering through a stubborn bout of insomnia gamely tries out all her friends’ sure-fire cures. Paul Galdone’s witty illustrations are the icing on the cake.


Elmer Gantry – Sinclair Lewis. This one is Abebooks’ fault; they sent me a coupon for 10% off. I’m not made of stone! I actually bought EG for The Spawn. He saw the 1960 movie, and I told him the book is even better. I even treated him to the Dell Books movie tie-in with Burt Lancaster on the cover. I don’t think he will, but if The Spawn rejects this book, I won’t have any problem taking it back for a fun reread.

The next seven books…well, that’s Alex’s fault. He recently moved back to the UK, leaving an Alex-sized hole in my Cracked Spinz book club. (Faulkner Guy had also departed a few days earlier. Ouch.) Right before he left, Alex invited people to his apartment to take what he was leaving behind. This counts as book-buying because I felt guilty about leaving with such a large armload for free that I gave him all the money I had in my pocket, which was approximately $4.00 (USD). Here’s what I got:

Grimms’ Fairy Tales – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Cute little pocket edition with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux. I’ve never seen the movies, the play or the musical. You could drive a tank through this gap in my cultural learning.

Democracy In America – Alexis De Tocqueville. This looks daunting.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I haven’t yet found a Russian author that I can warm up to, but maybe it’ll be Solzhenitsyn. My other reason for picking up this book is that Solzhenitsyn and I share a birthday — Solzhy and me and Brenda Lee.

Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne. I tried this when I was younger, but got bored quickly. Am I still that same reader?

Veronika Decides to Die – Paulo Coelho. I know, but it’s short. Maybe I can muscle through and rack up some international author points.

The Dante Club – Matthew Pearl. Lit Detectives! This looks like fun.

Then I went to Seoul and you know how that always goes:

Freedom – Jonathan Franzen. This is the pick for Bookleaves‘ March meeting. I hope I like it better than The Corrections.

Book Lust To Go – Nancy Pearl. America’s favorite librarian recommends books based on location. Her chapter titles — states, cities, countries, continents — had me bursting into an off-key, lyric-mangling but spirited rendition of I’ve Been Everywhere. Good stuff. How can I say no to Nancy? Don’t answer that.

>Buy Buy 2010


After a year of tracking my book purchases, this is what my lunacy looks like:

During 11 of the 12 months, I ranged between 3-8 books a month. In July, though, I went a little mad: 33 books. The good news is that I’m reading faster than I’m acquiring. Also, the majority of the books were used.

Looking back, I was surprised about how many books were bought for work or for other people. For example, I bought 7 in December, and three of those were gifts:

A Fable – William Faulkner. For the Pulitzer pile.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth – Jeff Kinney. I bought it for myself, but also with an eye towards the children’s literature class next semester.

The Lost City of Z – David Grann. Christmas gift.

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women – Harriet Reisen. I’m always up for anything Alcott: Stories? Sure. Bio? You bet! Trip to Concord? Let me pack a few things.

The Best of Everything – Rona Jaffe. I bought it to fill that Mad Men-shaped hole in my heart.

Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl – Donald Sturrock. Christmas gift.

Leonard Maltin’s 2011 Movie Guide – Leonard Maltin. Christmas gift.
Although I’ve exposed myself as the bookmadwoman that I am, I still find that this was a useful exercise and I’ll continue monitoring my book purchases in 2011.

>November 2010: Buying

> During November I didn’t do much bookstore-hopping so I made up for it by ordering online. Most of these selections are for work. Since I’m going to teach Children’s Literature next semester, I’m looking for a suitable text. Also slated is a children’s camp at my university that will run for three weeks in January. I’ll be teaching Newspaper. Upon hearing this news, I scrambled for some books about kid journalism. Here’s the entire haul:

1. Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh. I needed this one for book group. It’s really great that the movie tie-in cover has almost disappeared and the “classic” cover is back to stay. Also, I’m pleased to have Harriet M. Welsch on my shelves again. Makes me hungry for a tomato sandwich.

2. Anna LMNO – Sarah Glasscock. I have a copy of this novel about a small-town Texas hairdresser in my U.S. collection — I bought it at Larry McMurtry’s bookstore in Archer City — but I feel rather sentimental about the book, so I bought a copy for my collection here. Back when this 1988 novel was brand-new, I read a library copy and liked it a lot. When the trade paperback appeared in stores, I wanted it really bad, but it was close to Christmas. I didn’t have much money and had to buy presents, so I bought it for one of my friends who lived in another state. A couple of weeks later, she sent me a thank-you note that included her lengthy and scathing review. She tore Anna LMNO apart. I shredded her note but at the time, I believed that her opinion was infinitely more valuable than mine, so I felt uneasy about loving the book. Most of that uneasiness has worn off though, but there’s still a residual feeling of defiance and protectiveness.

3. Kids in Print: Publishing a School Newspaper – Mark Levin. Some of the technological information is outdated, but I’ve got to be ready for anything, especially if the supplies committee tells me we won’t have any computers at our disposal. Where’s my chisel?
4. Children’s Literature, Briefly – Michael O. Tunnell, James S. Jacobs. Upon hearing about getting the children’s literature class, my first wild impulse was to totally steep the English majors in everything. Fortunately for them, I dialed it back a bit and decided on this 320 page text which promises to hit the high points. I can’t wait to see it. If it’s not enough, I’ll supplement with some material that Faulkner Guy used last year and offered to share with me. I also had a brainwave about featuring Linda Sue Park’s books in the class, but that’s another shopping trip, isn’t it?
5. Create Your Own Class Newspaper: A Complete Guide to Planning, Writing and Publishing a Newspaper – Diane Crosby. You can probably tell that I feel a little nervous about teaching newspaper to kids. Especially in an EFL situation. I want to have an abundance of materials in case something tanks. Two hours is a long time and if things aren’t going well in the classroom, it can be an eternity.

6. School Newspaper Adviser’s Survival Guide – Patricia Osborn. Yes, I’m over preparing for camp, but I can also use this book in the future. The English department is thinking about offering journalism classes and starting their own newspaper. Plus, there’s something so cozy and comforting about building a resource library.
7. Into the Woods – Tana French. BOOKLEAVES is reading this for the December 12 meeting. Ordinarily, I don’t like mysteries, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’m enjoying the suspense and the psychological aspects of this story.

I haven’t yet counted up exactly how many books I’ve bought. I’m a little scared to look, but next month, I’ll see the evidence of my book gluttony. It’s been an interesting experiment.