Monday, May 19, 2008

Favorite Obscure Books

The Village Voice has asked writers to list their favorite obscure books -- I'm not sure what makes for an obscure book, but I hadn't heard of any of the ones on their list, so I guess that's pretty obscure. My favorite obscure book? Lis Sails the Atlantic, by Lis Andersen. A young girl's dad, in the 1920s, sells everything and buys an ocean-going boat so they can sail the world and see what can be seen. It's supposedly a true story written by the 10-year-old Lis, and (I suppose this is the Daddy in me talking) it's very endearing; that sort of adventure just doesn't happen anymore, a girl's adventure on top of it, and it's not one of those "the parents aren't around so the kids handle everything" kind of story that dominates children's literature. It is, however, rather dated, and the descriptions of the ports they visit may be intriguing to me, but, when viewed through the eyes of a young Scandinavian girl born in the 19th century, the big picture might be lost on young readers. I've tried to get my adventuresome daughter to read it, but she's more into Goosebumps and vampires these days. *sigh*.

Speaking of Destiny: she's planning on reviving her book review website this summer -- it proved to be too much work during the school-year, but she'll have plenty of time to write over the break.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Penguin Books Deck Chairs

What's more awesome than resting your butt on a classic work of literature? I do, of course, have improvements, such as iron-on letters to let you create your own books (reclining on a Naked Lunch on some sunny beach would be sublime) -- the current crop consists of four books in four different genre colors.

( via )

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Old Books Wanted: 1939

This ad was from the 10 November 1939 issue of Radio Guide, although American Book Mart was a regular advertiser and this particular ad ran quite a bit. Big money was promised for relatively common books; the prices, no doubt, were for pristine first editions, but the promise of selling your books to a dealer for real money during that tenuous Post-Depression-Pre-WWII time period was probably an intriguing offer. Since there's no good indicator of what the price is for, there's one point I find very interesting: "Tamerlane & Other Poems" from Edgar Allen Poe was first printed in 1827, and would fetch $5,000 (an enormous amount of money for the time), about the same "Pilgrim's Progress" and "Venus & Adonis" -- both of which were first printed hundreds of years before Poe. "Tamerlane" was originally published in a very small run, and few people believed it existed when Poe printed his second edition; first verified copies of the small book were not discovered until fifty years later. For all Poe's popularity and such rarity, $5,000 was a bargain for American Book Mart -- there are only 12 copies in the world today.

While the list is almost identical to any English professor's "greatest hits" list, the McGuffey's Primer is an interesting inclusion. It's also a relatively recent book, for the 1930s, and as a schoolbook it was published in enormous numbers, remaining in print (and in educational use) for years. Even today, McGuffey's schoolbooks are considered somewhat-useful in education. American Book Mart is probably looking for a first edition, about a hundred years' old at the time, and were willing to pay top dollar for it. They must know something I don't -- but it's going to make me look closer at primers when I'm out shopping for books.

The ad offers people the opportunity to get a copy of ABM's full catalog, for fifteen cents, before they start shipping off their books and expecting a bale of dollar bills to arrive in the mail. From what I can tell, it was quite a book on its own, hardcover and over a hundred pages -- and, whaddayaknow? Antiquarian booksellers today are offering old American Book Mart catalogs for sale as well.

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