Used and Sale Bookhaul

My favorite local bookshop is the used bookstore downtown. I’ve been going there since before I moved here (about twenty years ago), and I count the owner and manager as friends. Most of the books I get rid of go there first, so I often have a fair amount of store credit. And because they’re going to be closed for the first two weeks of 2022 for a reset, I wanted to get it before the new year. I had about an hour and a half to wander about the shelves on my day off and picked up a few used titles that caught my eye.

Ex Libris and Ten Years in the Tub are books about books, which I always enjoy. I don’t always find titles I’ll be interested in reading, but I’m always curious about other people’s reading lives. Especially when they are great writers who are both funny and insightful. I’ve already read both of these, but I’m looking forward to going back to them again.

The Geography of Bliss is about grumpy writer who is looking for the happiest place on Earth. He travels to places like Bhutan and Iceland, looking for the key to happiness. I’m not entirely sure that he’ll find it, but I’m looking forward to this, as it seems like it will be a humorous travelogue. Who doesn’t like a wry look at countries one wants to visit?

Mezzaterra is a collection of Soueif’s essays about being from the Middle East in the wake of 9/11. I doubt it will be particularly entertaining, but it’s good to learn about pressing issues and the troubles other people have had and are having due to recent history.

My friend Simon on Instagram read a couple of George Mackay Brown’s books last summer and fall and raved about both of them. Simon and I don’t always have the same taste in books, but we both enjoy the same historical fiction. So because of that, I’ve been on the lookout for Brown’s books. He is from the Orkneys, an island chain well off the northern Scottish coast in the reaches of the North Sea. I love Scotland, and I’d love to visit the Orkneys someday. For now, I’ll have to settle for reading books by an Orcadian author.


I was surprised and delighted to learn that Barnes and Noble was having a 50% of all hardback books sale after Christmas. It was initially meant to last just a couple of days, but it was extended until Wednesday. I wasn’t able to go in right away due to being out of town and then being at work, so things were a bit picked over by the time I stopped by, but I found a couple of titles I’ve been interested in. Getting them for a great price was a bit of icing on that cake.

No one will be surprised that I got a book about Medieval Europe– especially one that refutes the old notion that the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ were an era where everyone decided that being clever was for the birds and then proceeded to spend 500 years being stupid and dirty. That’s a Victorian notion. The Victorians weren’t the best historians, as they let their own cultural biases and gender norms influence their view of everything in the past. That it has taken more than a century for historians to stop assuming that those Victorian mores applied to earlier centuries (and other cultures) should tell you how pervasive those ideas are. This is not the first popular history book like this I have read, but I’m happy to read another one. I welcome most perspectives that take another look at the culture and history of the early Medieval era.

I doubt anyone will be surprised that I bought The Widow Queen, either, as it’s a historical fiction novel set in the late tenth century. Right in the middle of the Medieval era. But this is set in Poland and tells the story of a largely overlooked queen, Swietoslawa, who refuses to be a pawn in political schemes and who will do what it takes to rule in her own right. Sounds fascinating.


So now I have a great stack of new and new-to-me books to ring in the new year. I’m looking forward to all of them, and I think the hardest decision I have before me is which one to start reading first.

5 thoughts on “Used and Sale Bookhaul

  1. I love books about books and you always intrigue me when you mention them…. I wanted one book from Barnes….a coffee table like book. Got to Barnes and realized it’s an expensive paperback with a Harding cover….😆

  2. Beautiful! I always love coming home from the used book store with a stack of books, though it has been a while for me. Even just walking around the shelves is always fun. I’m very curious about The Bright Ages. I’m fascinated by those times but honestly don’t know that much about them beyond what I’ve seen in movies or shows or read in novels or the few history-related books I’ve read. Curiously, I’m currently reading Great Expectations (for Around the World in 80 Books) for the first time which I believe was published in the Victorian period and Dickens makes some comments about the Londoner biases of the time, seeing their city as the grandest in any land, and yet young Pip sees a very different picture. I’m finding it very interesting intentionally looking for these sorts of descriptions and trying to fit them into historical descriptions/depictions.

  3. Used bookstores are the best! So many possibilities, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on them.

    Dickens was a bit of a social firebrand, I think. He could be pretty critical of the flaws of his society. A Christmas Carol was more invective against selfish employers than it was the story of a guy who learns about the ‘real meaning of Christmas’. I think that I lot of the Regency and Victorian novels we still read today comment more on their society than we think they do.

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