Buying Your First Book

Explaining the art of identifying + choosing an ideal book — the smartest way to choose a book & how to optimize a book purchase (funny)

You might have heard that some folks have been buying books. 

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…

Book buying

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.

Books are like puppies

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.

Most people these days buy books by colour

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.

Tools to take with you when book buying

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?

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?

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:

Teddies Reading Books

Buy Books for Christmas: why reading is better for health than games and TV shows — 20 reasons to gift books this year

Scientists have already proven that reading is healthy because it positively alters a person’s state of mind.

Reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As a person’s reading ability matures, these networks become stronger and more sophisticated, brain activity and connectivity improves, especially in the somatosensory cortex (this responds to physical sensations such as movement and pain) thus reading builds self-esteem, improves communication skills, and brings happy associations.

 reading is healthy

Rush University Medical Center also found that reading helps prevent age-related cognitive decline. Older people who read and solve math problems every day maintain and improve their cognitive functioning (study from 2013.)

But did you know that reading reduces stress? Yes, 30 minutes of reading a day will lower a person’s blood pressure and heart rate, and decrease feelings of psychological distress.

Studies also teach us that reading an actual book (not one on a screen) will set a person up for a good night’s rest, will help ease symptoms of depression, and might even help a person live longer: when scientists studied a cohort of older adults over a period of twelve years they discovered that those who read books survived around two years longer than those who either didn’t read or who read magazines and used other media. The study found that people who read over three hours per week were 23 percent more likely to live longer than those who did not.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…”

― George R.R. Martin

But here are twenty more reasons to gift books this Christmas:

  • reading will transport them into their own fantasy worlds, not those manufactured by corporations and multinationals with their agendas
  • reading is like experiencing dreams, it will allow them to recognize their inner selves
  • books arouse curiosity in an unbridled way, so their thoughts will not be constrained by agendas, time-frames or matrices
  • books will relax them while they stimulate the mind: games and shows tend to overstimulate
  • there is a measured natural rhythm to reading: this will become meditative and smoothing
reading is a journey
  • as they read, they will become reasonable and thoughtful, so they will also feel invigorated
  • reading feeds a hungry mind with the perfect portion of knowledge
  • reading takes the focus away from the concerns of the outside world and allows a person to find peace within their own heart and mind
  • reading does not stifle creativity, it stimulates it
  • readers say they “lose track of time” when they read a book. Why? Because books are time machines. Wouldn’t you like to buy your friends a time machine for Christmas?

“Buying a book is not about obtaining a possession, but about securing a portal.”

― Laura Miller
  • they will be able to take their book anywhere to read it. The treats that come inside a book are preloaded and will never need updates, subscriptions, or other downloads
  • books do not need recharging and will never “shut down” when they have an unreliable connection
  • books work anywhere, anytime... even in a power outage, inside a hilltop tent, on a hospital trolley, or inside an airplane
  • books are like mirrors. What your friends take from a book reflects whatever is already inside. This helps them understand themselves
  • Books will become their friends: Have you ever heard anyone say that about a computer game or a television show?

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

― Groucho Marx
  • TV shows and computer games are from the mundane world. Why not treat them to a journey into the transmundane?
  • reading is an authentic experience. It’s not “like” seeing a different world or “pretending” to be a character… it’s about being transported into another world and walking in someone else’s shoes. It is not “virtual reality” — it is substantive reality!
  • books require patience: and patience is a virtue. Giving a book is like giving a person some time
  • reading will expand a worldview, not limit it
  • reading will teach language and expand vocabulary. We need language to interact with our world. While games and programs will limit language and buffer vocabulary, books promote better communication skills

Words: @neilmach 2020 ©

Any thoughts? tweet me @neilmach

Moondog and the Dark Arches by Neil Mach

Janney is a teenage librarian in a peculiar English feudal village. She possesses a remarkable ability: she can fly from her body and hook up with another person. In this state of detachment, she found herself trapped within another young woman who escaped from a pagan ritual, but then jumped off a bridge. Was this woman chased by a monster that had been sent by the evil priestess? Moondog, the preternatural detective, is called out to investigate these evils. Will he discover the truth? What invisible thing lives beneath the church? What is going on in the weird Vale of Amity?

ORDER this title now

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier — Book Review

I admit I have been very lucky.

Not only did I work in the Inner Temple of London [where the Guardians lurk] as a Junior Clerk to a Barrister-at-Law for a few years, but I also worked in London’s Hyde Park.

Believe me when I confirm that it truly felt as if I was ‘travelling back in time‘ each time I went to work at these places. At my chambers in Crown Office Row — wigs and gowns were commonplace, so were sealing waxed letters and red ribboned briefs … in our office we had chandeliers, suits of armor, antique furniture and each & every available bit of flat surface covered in shelving for thousands upon thousands of books.

My co-workers at The Temple dressed like Dickens characters too, wearing dandy clothes, whips and straps, top-hats and canes, handle-bar mustaches and always, always, they chose tailed frock-coats for work! Amazing, but true! So it doesn’t surprise me at all that Kerstin Gier set her tale in and around this weird part of London… a place that has not properly evolved since the nineteenth century.

Hyde Park felt perhaps older still, if that is even possible. I worked out of a place called “Ranger’s Lodge” — a building that went back to Queen Elizabeth the First.

[btw, those in the know call the Temple one of the “inns of court” — there is another one situated a short walk away known as Lincoln’s Inn — it is just as remarkable.]

If you visit the Temple in the City of London today, and I strongly suggest you do [hint: bring a camera] you will find a secret little pocket of London that has not changed since 1817. In fact, production companies often use Kings Bench Walk as a “street scene” in costumes dramas. I always shout, to anyone listening, “That’s where I used to work …” especially when a famous fictional character, such as Sherlock Holmes or Mister Pickwick, enters a house in the Temple. Everyone yawns and goes back to their smartphones, because they’ve heard it all before.


Additionally, I am a bit of an expert on Hyde Park, where the Prologue of this novel, Ruby Red is set, and the London park mentioned most frequently as a backdrop.

Not to sound boastful, [and I admit that it now seems braggy, putting the words down on paper] but I used to do guided walking tours around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

My talks were about the social history, ecology, architecture and nature of the London Park and were quite popular. I worked for the Royal Parks for a number of years so I had a clear advantage. And when we were told that they wanted to send people on training courses to become ‘tour guides’ I jumped at the opportunity… though not many others did. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is to explain that I know Hyde Park and the Temple very well, better than most actually, and I can confirm [if you hadn’t already suspected it] that Gier has perfectly described these wonderful places in her novel. In fact, so handsome are her descriptions that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I discovered she was one of the employees I worked alongside back in those years.

So the setting of Ruby Red was a strong motivating factor for me. I loved it. My only concern was that perhaps there was too much time spent creeping around in the dark [blind-folded.] This suggested, to me, that the author just wanted to get on with the action, and didn’t want to fuss with the world-building aspect. Maybe that’s a good thing… But it was silly for me.

So I approached this book with childlike delight, and enjoyed reading about the Temple and loving the back-story. But, being an idiot boy, I have to freely admit that I had immense difficulties with the family relationships.

I get into a sort-of mental entanglement with family trees, anyway. Even my own. I have a few nieces, nephews, god-children and assorted hangers-on that reside in various perches of my own family tree… My wife routinely asks me to recite their names and ages and include other salient facts. I always get into a pickle over the exercise. So far, never once, have I actually managed to remember all their names. You might suggest that it’s because I am “too old” and my brain has “stopped working” but I assure you that it has always been this way!   Even when I was a young student studying English Lit I couldn’t really ‘get to grips’ with all the names and characters in a book. And Ruby Red has loads!

Another early concern for me was Gwen’s general state of mental health. Without giving anything away, at least I can suggest that the protagonist suffers from strange delusions [the illness could run in the family.]

Most common delusional themes are covered in Ruby Red. So, for this reason, I had a constant and disconcerting doubt about the plausibility of the tale.

But then, to counter-balance all that strangeness, we have the best friend in the world and trusted assistant, Lesley. She adds a much-needed dimension of reality to proceedings. I just loved this character [and I am prepared to say that I secretly wished she had been chosen to go on the adventures, she is so much more capable, wise and, let’s be honest, prepared.]

It is Lesley who discovers the stuff about the Count Saint-Germain that makes the story far more credible. Probably like everyone, I checked him out, did my own research, and was amazed at what I found.

Once the Count became involved, this story really got motoring [for me] and I got involved.

I suppose that the turning point of the book revolves around the realization that the “gifts” Ruby Red possesses are coveted and come at a price.
And then suddenly, all too quickly, I arrived at the end.

I still have doubts about some aspects of this book, such as the hallucinatory experiences in the church, or the front-cover (which I find dreadful, but it is a matter of personal taste … ) but overall this is a fast paced, easy going novel. Highly entertaining, with much historical accuracy and sufficient conspiracy theories  ie, Masonry, the New World Order and the Illuminati, to make things very interesting indeed.

I give it four stars.

Neil Mach is author of Blayz the Bryte Schiener, Into Disrepute and Postcard Angel. Currently working on The Bedevilment of Bertie Lunn to be out early 2017

Slutting the Globe