Friday, April 21, 2006

The cost of being a reader

Okay, this is going to look at another aspect of how expensive it can be to read, even when you buy books cheaply.

I am in the process of reading _Teacher in America_ by Jacques Barzun. I'm enjoying the book immensely, and I may have more to say about it later, but here is a book that you might think was a good deal. I paid only 50 cents for this book at a flea market, after browsing through about 30 boxes of fascinating books that had obviously come from the library of one person, and that person was probably a teacher, or at least someone very interested in education. (The seller offered to let me have all 30 boxes for $30, too, and if it had been possible for me to get that many books home to Poland, I'd have jumped at the offer, but unfortunately, this was a month or so before we few back to Poland, and I already had more books than I could fit into my luggage.)

Okay, so this was a bargain book, right?


Maybe not.

Really good books often suggest further reading, either because you want to read more books by the same author, or on the same topic, or because the book itself mentions other books, or because you peek into the bibliography and find another interesting title or three, or even just because when you pick up the book in question, you notice a couple of other interesting books nearby on the shelf at the library or bookstore. If you read, the list of books you want to read will just grow longer and longer.

This particular "bargain book" has been unusual in the number of titles it has added to my "want to read" list. I've already ordered another title by the same author from the states, for which I will have to pay overseas shipping. One of the most desirable titles is practically impossible to find. Very few copies are available, and the absolute cheapest one I could find was through an ebay store for $20. (I'm postponing that purchase--perhaps a less expensive copy will surface, and I don't really have the the time to read that book yet, anyway.)

Among the titles I've added to my "want to read" list because of Jacques Barzun are:

Kipling's "Regulus" in the "Stalky" series
Lional Trilling's "Of This Time, of That Place"
Lewes's _Biographical History of Philosophy_
Charles Singer's _Short History of Science_
Plus a few more titles by the author himself, and the "most desirable" book mentioned above.

And I'm only halfway through the book.

I haven't taken the time to find out how much those books (plus postage!) might cost, but I am reasonably certain that my original 50 cent investment in this book is going to cost me a lot more than that.

And then there is the issue of buying shelves to house all the books...

Reading is a costly habit, and as far as I know, there is only one cure.


At 10:57 PM , Blogger Leo Wong said...

Noted in:

At 1:56 AM , Blogger Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Don't we get to know what the desirable book is, or did I miss it?


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