About Books…

Books are the light, and sometimes the bane, of my existence. Ever since I discovered books, well before first grade, I’ve been a reader. I think I picked it up from my mother, whose ability to loose herself in a book is almost as notable as mine. 🙂  Now I write them for a living as well.

Before I wrote books, I played around with writing shorter stuff: fiction, poetry, articles, whatever.  Here’s a selection of some writing I’ve done over the years. This page is definitely under construction, and I’ll add stuff as I’m ready to have it seen.

As a reader, my tastes are broad. My favorite fiction tends to be at least remotely related to science fiction or fantasy. Since almost anything can be related to SF, though, this doesn’t restrict things much. 🙂 The truth is that I’m not so much an SF fan as a fan of good, imaginative, plot-driven writing, and much of the best fiction this century has been SF. The other “genre” writers you’ll find well represented among my favorites are mystery writers, from the first of them all to some writing actively today.  In addition, I can be spotted reading good fiction in almost any genre, including “literary”, although most literary fiction that I read tends to have been written at least a hundred years ago.  Modern trends in literary fiction have the habit of producing books that IMHO are simply neither fun to read at the time or worthwhile in retrospect.  This is no different than in the past, but older books have been winnowed by time and the less worthwhile ones mostly left behind.

I also love poetry, and have favorite poets from all sorts of time periods and places. As you might have noticed, my tastes tend towards representational art, stories with plots, and poetry that scans. Even so, there are twentieth-century poets I like, including at least one American.  My favorite type of poetry is narrative, and I love ancient heroic narratives. I also prefer to read poetry in its original language, albeit in some cases with a dictionary and prose translation handy. 🙂 (While I do poetic translations, even a truly good poetic translation of a great poem isn’t the same poem. At best it’s a derivative work of art based on the original.)

Finally, a few suggestions on where to obtain all these books. 🙂

In this day of huge chain bookstores and on-line giants that sell more and more copies of fewer and fewer books, I cherish and support the independent booksellers who are in this business because they love books and reading. Such booksellers are the mainstays of new writers and small independent presses. While the chains stock a gazillion copies of the lastest best sellers, and therefore often have no room for earlier books or less wildly popular books, the independent bookstores maintain backlists of books that may not be the newest story out there, but are still worth reading.

They are all too few of these booksellers left. Since I have a vested personal interest in their continued existence, I want to mention a few. 🙂

My favorite bookstore (off-line and on) is Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. It stocks both new and used books, and has a rare book room second to none in the world. In the mid-1990s Powell’s was also the world’s largest bookstore; although a few bookstores had larger volumes of sales, none stocked as many books.

Powell’s is a rarity — a wildly successful and profitable independent bookstore run by people who genuinely love books and reading. Powell’s stocks lots of good books you can’t find anywhere else, or can find only via a special order and long wait. You can get popular fiction at Powell’s, but you can also find books on a range of subjects that don’t get covered by the large publishing houses and large bookstores. The owner and employees of Powell’s are themselves voracious readers, and you can usually find a clerk who can help you find a good book on almost any topic.

A few years ago, when I was doing research for a paper, I needed to find a rather rare book first published in the 1930s. Interlibrary loan failed me, and as a last resort I contacted Powell’s to ask them to do a rare book search. They had two copies on their shelf. Since then, I’ve started at Powell’s when trying to locate a book, instead of calling them only when Interlibrary Loan fails. 🙂

While no bookstore equals Powell’s, a few other bookstores I love and visit when I’m in the vicinity are:

  • Cody’s Books in Berkeley, California. New books. Excellent selection of non-English and foreign published works.
  • The Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Washington. New books. One of the finest all-around bookstores I’ve ever been in. The selection isn’t as large as Powell’s, but is exquisitely chosen. In addition, they’ve got the original bookstore cafe downstairs. 🙂
  • Know Knew Books in Palo Alto, California. Used books. One of the best collections of Science Fiction and Fantasy I’ve found outside of an SF specialty bookstore, including first editions of classic SF writers.
  • Moe’s Books in Berkeley, California. Used books. Six floors of everything imaginable, including a wonderful basement full of cheap used paperbacks.
  • The Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado. New books. Superb selection of books by and about Native Americans, in addition to an excellent selection overall.

One final note — unlike Amazon and Barnes and Noble through their “associates” programs, none of these bookstores is paying me to get you to buy their books. These recommendations were totally unsolicited; I really do like the stores I mention and am telling you about them because of that. Although I doubt that any of these bookstores particularly minds me recommending them either…. ;>

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