Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Book Fair Junkie

2007's New Year's resolution was to read 50 books. I don't think I made it. This year my resolution was not to buy any books until my birthday in August. I'm pretty sure I didn't make that one, either. Not pretty sure, to be honest. Just plain Sure. I was at a book fair (Kaaba's, from Madras) on January 3rd. And the newest book fair in town, Mayank's from Bombay, I've been to twice already, and will probably wander across there again this week.

In keeping with my 'this year is for me' theme, I've been looking more at fiction, instead of the reference books on child abuse and mental health that I normally stock up on for Askios. It's been ages since I've read fiction on a regular basis--don't we all do that? Remember how many novels we read as teenagers? And then we get all grown-up (or think we are) and can't allow ourselves such an indulgence. At the most, we read self-help books, or the latest Booker-winner, or something off the New York Times Top Ten Bestsellers' list. Mostly we're reading marketing strategies and contracts and presentations and emails and fine print.

And blogs, which, being on our computers, somehow feel more businesslike and less sinful than a book on the bedside table.

So this seemed a good medium to encourage your return to paperback (or hard-bound, as the case may be). And for me, a nicely organised way to take a trip down memory lane from time to time, to revisit the books I've found and read.

Second-hand books are what I recommend. Unless J.K. Rowling surprises us with a Harry Potter sequel (or prequel). But she said she won't, so we mustn't hold our breaths, and second-hand books it is.

I'm never sure why people like buying brand new books. Used books have more energy, more personality, more history. There are names scrawled on the inside cover, or birthday messages from aunts or godmothers. There are pressed maple leaves in books from Canada. There are bookmarks from quaint little American bookstores. In self-help books, there are sometimes notes from the therapist's clinic, advising the previous owner of his or her next appointment date. And the really old books smell DIVINE. New books are a little too sanitised for me.

Plus there's no adventure in buying a new book. The book stores will have it. If they don't have it, they'll get it for you. But a book fair ("SURPLUS USA/CANADA BOOKS!! UPTO 85% OFF!!") promises uncertainty and a fair amount of grime. It's only fitting that one comes away from a treasure hunt with grey, dusty fingers. And one steps into the fair, with its disrespectful piles of books plonked onto old tables, overflowing cartons underneath, KNOWING that somewhere in this mess is A Book (or several) That Should Have Your Name On It.

Add to that the mirage of economics and saving trees, and you have a winner. I, for one, am totally hooked on what, for me, is a relatively harmless addiction. (To better understand this relativity, refer to posts labelled 'Dear Me').

Meanwhile, if you're ever in a book fair, and see a bald woman having a surreptitious snort of some tattered yellowed pages, that would be me. Fellow addicts, come and say hullo.


pRiyA said...

well said bald lady! well said! and thanks to you giving me a sniff of book fairs, i have become hooked too.

Slogan Murugan said...

I looked behind the shelves at these exhibitions and at second hand book stores and I see the same brown box everywhere from a company called 'Thrift'. They collect books from North America and feed us at a nice rate.

Unknown said...

Hello. From one book junkie to another. I agree about used books, but having experienced a great deal of moving in my life, I have been converted to the public library!!! I still find used books fascinating. I am learning not to aquire, well, too much, that is.

JMH said...

Yeah, I love a book that smells like mildew or age, with yellow pages and frustratingly small print. It makes me feel like I'm discovering some long forgotten secret, which may or may not lie between those tiny letters. If only my eyes didn't hurt so much.

Matthew Adams said...

Hmmm, some poor sod has to buy the book new though so that the rest of us can buy it second hand.