You can’t give ’em away

In her later years, my mother’s eye sight was not particularly good. Laser and cataract surgeries didn’t help a great deal and, as pain kept her up late at night, she turned to audio books to keep her company. She borrowed every audio book she could find from every library she could get to. And when she ran out of those, she started buying them. New, used, from eBay, from Chapters or Amazon. Wherever she could find them. By the time she died, she’d amassed over 700 audio books on CD and cassette and countless dozens (hundreds?) more downloaded from iTunes and Audible. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of them.

She’d desperately wanted her books donated to a library, so that other people like her could enjoy the books. While she was in the hospital, my father contacted the Halifax Regional Library to ask them about donating the books. They were underwhelming in their enthusiasm and essentially told him that he could donate them but they’d probably just put them on their sales table. Even the South Shore library where my mother had borrowed many audio books from was less than enthusiastic about the potential donation. (In hindsight, I suspect that the audio book donations libraries usually get are, well, crap. Jumbled boxes of books nobody will want to read, possibly in poor condition. In hindsight, I get it. At the time, I thought it was a bizarre reaction to a huge gift.)

After my mother died, my father painstakingly went through all of the 700+ audio books, boxing them carefully by author and making a master list of what each box contained. Then he and my uncle drove down to the little library to deliver all 22 printer paper boxes full of books. The difference in the library’s reaction was satisfying. While there were a few that they’ll probably unload (don’t blame them — my mother tried to get rid of some of them herself), the rest are all being entered into the library system with special bookplates containing my mother’s name. A pile of them have already been loaned to a local nursing home. (My father had also given them one of my mother’s MP3 CD players and one of her cassette players. Those went over so well that he’s going to be sending them the others — and my mother stockpiled them like they were never going to be made again, which given the recent twilighting of the Sony Walkman cassette player, might be accurate.)

It’s a happy ending. My mother would be pleased that her gift was ultimately so well received, not because she’d want the accolades, but because she knew how hard it was to find good audio books and she’d wanted her collection to be of use to somebody else like her. I think she can rest easy knowing that her books will be enjoyed for years to come. And I like knowing that, years from now, someone will come across one of those books with its little commemorative bookplate and my mother will come alive again just for a brief moment.

(Today marks exactly three months.

Yes, I’m still counting. I may never stop.)


A book addict’s worst nightmare

Historically, my book-buying addiction has been somewhat mitigated by the following:

  • I don’t like to shop in physical book stores — when I browse, I end up buying stuff that I don’t really want just because; online, I tend to take longer to decide what I’m going to buy (and I like being able to search without having to hunt for a kiosk or a clerk).
  • Amazon and Chapters require a credit card — and even if I was going to use one, I feel obligated to buy $39+ worth of books at a time in order to get the free shipping, and I can’t always convince myself that I should be buying that much money’s worth of books, despite the fact that my shopping cart — an ersatz wishlist — is 27 pages long (yes, I know Amazon has an actual Wishlist feature but it’s more convenient to use the shopping cart as one instead; and yes, I know that a 27-page shopping page could be considered a symptom of hoarding — like there was any doubt of that *snort*)
  • Online stores that take Paypal tend to be based in the US (like Barnes and Noble) and charge fairly high shipping to ship to Canada
  • Buying books on eBay tends to be a crapshoot. Most charge exhorbitant shipping charges and many of the book sellers with the most feedbacks are really all different faces of the same seller (who charges a fairly high shipping charge similar to for its basic service — which can take months to get a book to you and you won’t get any answer to your emails — but offers a premium, astronomically-priced shipping option that ships in a couple of days and allows you the privilege of actually contacting them). In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a little bitter about this particular group of sellers because you don’t find out that they’re related until you go through the checkout process. My advice? DO NOT buy books on eBay unless you’re buying from a small seller.

I’d thought that Better World Books would be my downfall, because you can frequently find used copies of books you’re looking for at a reasonable (or lower-than-reasonable) price, and their shipping to Canada is $3.98 per book. Cheaper than most US sellers if you’re only getting a couple of books, but the shipping adds up. That ultimately held me back somewhat. And the shipping time definitely isn’t calibre, understandably so, but it still can be a determining factor.

Now, through a number of friends who’ve used it, I’ve found the Book Depository, a Guernsey-based site offering free shipping worldwide and in many cases, significantly cheaper prices than any other place I’ve seen. If it’s half as nifty as it looks, I may just be completely overwhelmed by my addiction.

I just placed my first order with them (for a single book I’d been looking for) so we’ll see what the cost really is — in terms of shipping time, wait, customs, etc. If it’s even half as fast as Better World Books, which is fairly slow, I’ll still be a happy — if poorer — camper.

BBC Top 100 Books, revisited

After really looking at the list of books as shown in Loth’s post and the original book list, I decided to do a comparison. Both lists share 58 of their 100 books. The other 42 differ significantly. The original list was the top 100 best-loved novels — seeing the Bible show up in the meme list amuses me to no end. I mean, *I* consider it to be a novel but I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of the person who decided to add it to the meme before passing it on. ūüėČ

Books that only appear in the meme list:

  1. A Confederacy of Dunces
  2. A Fine Balance
  3. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  4. Atonement
  5. Charlotte’s Web
  6. Chronicles of Narnia
  7. Cloud Atlas
  8. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  9. Count of Monte Cristo
  10. Dracula
  11. Germinal
  12. Grapes of Wrath
  13. Hamlet
  14. Harry Potter series (appears as 4 separate books in the BBC list)
  15. Heart of Darkness
  16. Jude the Obscure
  17. Les Miserables
  18. Life of Pi
  19. Lolita
  20. Madame Bovary
  21. Moby Dick
  22. Notes From A Small Island
  23. Oliver Twist
  24. Possession
  25. Sense and Sensibility
  26. The Bell Jar
  27. The Bible
  28. The Color Purple
  29. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
  30. The Da Vinci Code
  31. The Faraway Tree Collection (appears as a single book in the BBC list)
  32. The Five People You Meet In Heaven
  33. The Handmaid’s Tale
  34. The Kite Runner
  35. The Little Prince
  36. The Lovely Bones
  37. The Remains of the Day
  38. The Shadow of the Wind
  39. The Three Musketeers
  40. The Time Traveller’s Wife
  41. The Wasp Factory
  42. Vanity Fair

Books that only appear in the real BBC list:

  1. Artemis Fowl
  2. Black Beauty
  3. Double Act
  4. Girls In Love
  5. Good Omens
  6. Goodnight Mister Tom
  7. Gormenghast
  8. Guards! Guards!
  9. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets  (appears as the series in a single entry in the meme list)
  10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire  (appears as the series in a single entry in the meme list)
  11. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone  (appears as the series in a single entry in the meme list)
  12. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban  (appears as the series in a single entry in the meme list)
  13. Holes
  14. I Capture The Castle
  15. Kane And Abel
  16. Katherine
  17. Magician
  18. Matilda
  19. Mort
  20. Night Watch
  21. Noughts And Crosses
  22. Perfume
  23. The Alchemist
  24. The BFG
  25. The Clan Of The Cave Bear
  26. The Colour Of Magic
  27. The Count Of Monte Cristo
  28. The God Of Small Things
  29. The Godfather
  30. The Grapes Of Wrath
  31. The Magic Faraway Tree (appears as the collection in the meme list)
  32. The Magus
  33. The Pillars Of The Earth
  34. The Princess Diaries
  35. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
  36. The Shell Seekers
  37. The Stand
  38. The Story Of Tracy Beaker
  39. The Thorn Birds
  40. The Twits
  41. Treasure Island
  42. Vicky Angel

My books read count would increase if I used the meme list. So, if you’ve done the meme list yourself, try checking the real BBC list and see how many of those books you’ve read.

Book pushers

I love books. Not just to read them, but to have¬† them. I love the feel, the look, the smell. I think I should have been a librarian…or perhaps an archivist. Play to your strengths, I’m told.

First, some definitions:

  • bibliophile –¬† someone who likes to collect books, usually rare and¬†collectible ones
  • bibliomaniac –¬†someone who obsessively collects books of any kind, regardless of content or quality
  • bookworm – someone who loves to read (alternatively, it is also a type of¬†insect — though not a single species. Some of them, during¬†their¬†larval stage, bores holes into the edges of books to pupate and then emerge in their adult form. Includes carpet beetles, furniture beetles, and other annoying little bastards)

I know what you’re thinking. I’m not a bibliomaniac. I’m a bookworm with a hoarding problem. There’s a difference, mainly that I only collect books I actually like and/or intend to read. And I’ve probably given away or thrown out more books than I still own over the years.¬† Still, books that I’ve read and have no intention of rereading and/or don’t need as a reference tend to accumulate. It’s an ongoing, long-term process.

Anyway, I’m watching Clean Sweep this morning (with Tava Smiley and Peter Walsh). I’ve mentioned decluttering/organization guru Peter Walsh before.¬†So far, he’s written four books on the topic of decluttering. You get the irony there, right? You’re a hoarder, but please¬†add my four books to your¬†clutter.¬†(I will say that at least he also offers free advice: on his site, on Oprah, on Clean Sweep. But you know that most people with clutter issues are going to go out and buy the books, thereby adding to the clutter.) David Bach, prolific author of such books as “The Automatic Millionaire” and “Start Late, Finish Rich”, does the same thing — pushes¬†his financial freedom books and expensive counselling¬†while advising people to save their money.

Way to take advantage of the behavioural problems you’re both purporting to be trying to stop. It would be like Richard Simmons selling candy wrapped in pithy weight loss affirmations.

[As a complete aside, while looking at some old David Bach posts and articles tonight, I came across one where someone made some¬†complaints that, based on advice from a particular investment company,¬†his father would only have $150,000 when he died instead of the million he could¬†die with if he had different investments. Is that really what people are investing their money for, so that they can leave scads of money to their greedy offspring? Where does this feeling of entitlement come from? If the guy was really concerned about his father’s well-being, he wouldn’t be talking about how much his father would be worth at his death.]

BBC’s Top 100 Books

Via Loth (who I came to via her¬†comment in XUP‘s blog), I came across the BBC’s top 100 books, a survey from April 2003¬†to determine¬†the nation’s best-loved novel (the nation being the UK, of course). The initial survey resulted in a top 200 list, a top 100 list, a top 21 list, and a final single winner, The Lord of the Rings.¬†A total of¬†approximately 750,000 votes were received over the course of the search for the top book.¬† (Note: this survey¬†is not to be mistaken for the Guardian’s Top 100 Books of All Time from 2002 or subsequent surveys by other groups.)¬†

The list below comes directly from the BBC¬†page — some of the entries vary slightly from those in Loth’s post and the books are in a slightly different order, but otherwise are essentially the same. She says (quoting the post that inspired hers) that “The BBC say the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on their list.” but I haven’t yet come across a news article that actually says that. The original BBC page linked to above certainly doesn’t mention it and none of the people perpetuating this meme link to any source page. Unless otherwise corrected, I’m going to presume that the originator of the meme made up the statistic out of whole cloth, as it reads like your typical email meme. Continue reading “BBC’s Top 100 Books”

Essential computer books

Found these gems while I was cleaning out two of my bookcases in preparation for the second  stage of hoarder reformation:

  • Everything You Wanted to Know About the Mac, Second Edition¬†— Unless it has to do with OS X. Or OS 9. Or OS 8, for that matter. Of course it was written in 1993 so that might explain it. ūüėČ
    Everything you wanted to know about the Mac front cover Everything you wanted to know about the Mac back cover
  • Macworld’s Mac and Power Mac Secrets — 1994. Comes with a floppy diskette of awesome utilities….of course, you need a floppy drive and those haven’t been standard on a Mac since before the first¬†iMacs. Details, details. If this¬†book (or the one above it)¬†is up your alley, I have a Mac IIsi in my closet that you might like.
    Mac Secrets front cover Mac Secrets back cover
  • Idiot’s Guide to the Internet — 1994. Everything you need to know about the key Internet stuff. You know, like UNIX shell commands, Telnet, Archie, WAIS, and FTP. (The World Wide Web and HTTP only warrant an 11-page afterthought at the end of the book.) Comes with a “SuperHighway Access Sampler” floppy diskette.
    Idiot's Guide to the Internet front cover Idiot's Guide to the Internet back cover
  • The World Wide Web Complete Reference — 1996. A third of the book is devoted to listing “nearly a thousand businesses that have established a presence on the World Wide Web”. Wow. A whole thousand. Surely you need look no further.
    World Wide Web Complete Reference World Wide Web Complete Reference back cover
  • Great American Websites — From 1997. Ah, for the days when you could put a Web directory in a book instead of actually, you know, on the Web. Notable because almost all of the links in book are subsections of larger sites, rather than separate domains.So very 90s, back when Network Solutions had a monopoly on domain registrations and the .com of your dreams would cost you $35 US¬†a year.
    Great American Websites Great American Websites back cover

Think I could get anything for them on eBay? No? Not even as collector’s items?