You might have heard that some folks have been buying books.
If you’ve ever wondered if this is an activity that you could get involved in, here are a few tips that will help you get started. However, I warn you that buying a book is often a formidable and bewildering experience. I suppose, in the past, the sheer complexity of book-buying might have left you discouraged. Perhaps the worrying complications of all the processes involved left you frazzled. But let me assure you that, although it is a very challenging experience, with many obstacles to overcome along the way, many people have successfully purchased a book and survived… So, take a deep breath and let me help you do this thing…
First, it is crucial that you get into the right “frame of mind” before proceeding with any book purchase. You will need to do this over a period of months. I suggest you sit on a couch (or an easy chair, if you prefer) and binge watch TV shows until you are quite literally sick of them. Once you’ve done this, try listening to your music. Listen to everything you own twice (it might take weeks), but eventually you will come to the inescapable conclusion that “everything sounds the same.” At this point, you are almost ready to buy a book. But not quite. First try adopting a new exercise regimen. You’ll soon tire of that as well. I reckon it will take a week. Then play all your console games until you are completely exasperated. Okay, now you are ready to buy your first book.
Things you might not know before heading into the wild world of book ownership:
Owning a new book takes more time and attention than you might expect. Having a new book is a lot like having a new puppy. Books should be cared for, homeschooled, and admired. You will probably spend a lot of time just looking at your new book. And stroking it.
You will ask your book to “sit” or “stay” when you go to fetch a drink or answer the door, but don’t expect it to behave. Expect a few little “accidents” when you first start out. I often find that a new book has hidden itself under the furniture. Or made a mess in the corner. Of course, for much of the time, your new book will be sleeping. That is quite normal and it is nothing to worry about. Just brush it off, pat it down, and you will see it is ready and willing to “go again” in next to no time.
Books like to be taken outside too. It might surprise you how often your book wants to go out for a walk. Therefore, you will need to invest in a jacket or coat for your new book, if you want to protect it from the elements. I use a soft bag. The only difference I can think of, right now, between books and puppy-dogs is that books don’t have to be de-wormed. But otherwise that’s about it. Books are, basically, the same as puppies.
Choosing your first book
How will the book fit onto my shelf? Most people these days buy books by colour. Book enthusiasts tend to “colour code” their shelves (see above.) If you prefer bold colours, consider this a factor when buying your book. Ask yourself how it will fit into an arrangement or display. If you’re a fan of neutral tones, think twice before buying a book with an eye-catching cover. Instead, opt for pastel (or lavender) tints.
How will the book fit into my living space? In the 1970s, people bought lavishly illustrated books to be left (unread) on coffee tables. Fortunately, coffee tables are a thing of the past, and so are bulky books. Now, you will find books come in more agreeable shapes and sizes. What size and shape is best for you? Unless you are an eccentric person, I would steer clear of any book that is hexagonal, pentagonal, spheroid, or pyramidal. Instead, choose a book that’s been made in the traditional shape, especially if it’s your first purchase. I have found that rectangular books fit most easily onto shelves.
But anyone who has tried to organize a bookshelf will tell you that not all books are the same size. This can be infuriating. Apparently this is because some books contain more words than others. In general, books are made to be portable. They are not made to be stacked on shelves. This is an irritation (I know), but one that you must overcome if you ever want to become a serious book hobbyist.
My advice is to check the dimensions of any book that interests you. I frequently carry a tape measure, a digital kitchen scale, a micrometer (shown above) and a depth gauge when I go shopping for books. I verify all the vital proportions, attributes, and characteristics of any book before I make a purchase. This is often to the bewilderment of the bookseller. But I know that a poorly chosen book has terrible ramifications… it’s better to get it right first time.
Should I buy a popular book — or risk a book that no one has heard of?
This is all about bragging rights and it’s important because, of course, it’s how you earn everyone’s admiration. Buying a book is as much about showing-off your wealth, knowledge, and achievement as it is about satisfaction and indulgence. If you intend to impress people with the purchase of your book, keep in mind that they may already own the book in question… so they might think you are “late in the game,” and despise you for being “behind the times.” They will call you a loser. On the other hand, they might have already considered the very same book, but rejected it, for reasons of colour, shape, size, etc. This means they will belittle your choice. They will mock you. And you will endure many sleepless nights, struggling with the shame. Yes, it’s a troublesome challenge and can be very confusing for a first-time buyer. My suggestion is to find a book that absolutely no one has ever heard of. That way, you won’t risk humiliation or a friend’s criticism. It might also earn you much admiration because your friends will think you are a visionary book buying pioneer.
Should I buy a book written by a famous person?
The simple answer to this is no. If you think about it, it’s obvious. Famous people don’t have time to write books. They spend their days appearing on chat shows, gossiping at cocktail parties, flying to exotic islands, bubbling in hot-tubs, lounging on luxury yachts, or posing near sports cars. When and how did they find time to write that book? They didn’t. Most struggling authors will tell you they spend (on average) ninety-seven hours a week writing a book. Followed by a hundred hours a week editing a “first draft”. This process takes several months. They don’t go out to the shops, let alone to parties, appear on chat shows, or lounge by pools. It’s typical that a real author will not see the sun for many months at a time. On average, a real author takes three long years to write a bog-standard book and by the end of it has a really bad complexion. It took some guy named J.D. Salinger ten years to write a flimsy book called the “Catcher in the Rye.” That’s 52,000 hours of his life. Spent writing one lousy book. So any famous person that tells you they wrote a book 1) used a ghostwriter, or 2) wrote a crappy book.
Should I buy a book written by a deceased person?
This one is tricky. Lots of dead people write fantastic books. Dead people wrote some of the best books I ever read. But try not to “get into” that whole trilogy or box-set thing, especially if the series is written by a recently dead person. Some of those sets are never properly finished, and that’s pretty disheartening if you are following the series arc.
What about ghosts?
Yes, indeed, what about ghosts? I have found that it’s best to take a professional exorcist with me when I go book-hunting. You never know if an evil spirit resides within a book. This is a common problem with old books, so better safe than sorry. If you cannot afford to hire a shaman or demonologist, I strongly suggest you bring along a bell, a candle, a crucifix, and a chalice of holy water. Say a few words, in mock Latin, over the chosen book, kiss the cross and dip it into the water, then pass the cross around the book three times. Ring the bell and pass the candle (unlit) over the book cover. That should do it.
But don’t books just contain words?
Many first-time book buyers get confused by this aspect of books. They feel defeated when they open a book only to find, with some level of disgust and confusion, that it merely contains a mixture of what seems like a jumble of nonsense words. Yes, this is the most disgusting thing about books. Many have said it before, and many will after you, so why not let your anger gush out at the very top of your voice, when you are next in a bookshop: “But this is just a whole clutter of words…” you will exclaim. Tip: put away the bell, book and candle before you do any shouting.
Don’t despair. I want to tell you a secret. It’s a secret that only book lovers know… are you ready? Books don’t just contain words. They contain thoughts. And images. And ideas. And personalities. And places. And memories. And tastes. And sounds. And smells. And seasons. And costumes. And space. And magic. And complete worlds. And whole lifetimes. And entire galaxies.
Go on. Treat yourself. Buy a book before the sales assistant calls security.
Good luck. Happy reading.
Words: @neilmach 2020 ©
I can heartily recommend the book shown below. It’s a sensible shape and size, written by someone who’s not at all famous (almost completely unheard of, to be honest) and it’s relatively unhaunted and comes fully house-trained: “Moondog and the Reed Leopard” is available for purchase now: