Visions of Paradise

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A visit to Borders bookstore

Traditionally on Friday nights Jean and I go out for supper followed by shopping. Whenever we go anyplace near a bookstore, Jean drops me off while she makes the rounds of other stores. So last night, I spent an hour browsing at Borders while she shopped at Rockaway Mall.

When I visit a bookstore, I generally spent most of my time looking at four types of books: science fiction, historical fiction, history, and travel writing. All of those books offer variations on the same type of sense of wonder, the thrill of exotic cultures and societies different from our own, which has always been the greatest appeal for me in my reading. Last night I found 7 items at Borders that I really wanted to buy, but I restrained myself to only buying 2 of them.

In the Travel section, I immediately went to the classic works by H.V. Morton who wrote the finest travel books combining touristy descriptions with genuine insight into history and culture. His A Traveler in Italy has been on my Recommended Books list for several years. Borders also carries Travelers Tales Books which offer some fabulous books, both classic travel writing as well as collections of essays either on a specific topic or a specific locale. Last night I saw their books Italy and Tibet. I have been immersed in Tibet the past few years while helping Fei Fei edit her own book about that country, and Italy has always intrigued me, a combination of my own family’s heritage and my disappointment at learning absolutely nothing about that heritage growing up except a preoccupation with good food.

Next I visited the music section where I found two classic cds by the Waterboys. They are an almost unknown group who make sprightly folk-rock music. I have several of their CDs, but not their two early classics This is the Sea and Fisherman’s Blues.

From there I moved to the fantasy & science fiction section, stopping first at the adjacent graphic novels. One of the reasons I wanted to go to Borders was to buy the Alan Moore trade paperback Promethea. I have loved comics since I was a pre-teenager, growing up on Green Lantern and the Justice League of America. Nowadays Alan Moore is my favorite comic writer, but I draw the line at paying $2.95 for single issues of comics, instead restricting myself to graphic novel compilations. When I browsed the graphic novels last night I was delighted to see that volume 2 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has been released in paperback. Volume 1 was wonderful stuff–and don’t even think about the abysmal movie that was supposedly based on it, probably no more than the recent I, Robot was based on Asimov’s book of the same name.

Finally, eventually, I reached the sf books where I saw that M. John Harrison’s Light has been released in an absolutely gorgeous-looking trade paperback. Two types of sf I don’t normally read are space opera and hard-science, because they don’t give me the sense of wonder as future history, or historical fiction of any type, including alternate and historical fantasy. But there are certainly exceptions, such as Greg Benford’s Galactic Center series, and anything by Poul Anderson who straddles history and adventure better than anybody. And Light has gotten rave reviews from such disparate sources as Locus, bloggers Cheryl Morgan and Matt Cheney, and writers Neil Gaiman and Jeff Vandermeer, several of whom have called it one of the best sf novels ever! How could I resist an endorsement like that?

So I let the travel books and cds sit on my lists of recommendations awhile longer, and went home with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Light. Reviews should be awhile in coming though, since with the start of school my reading slows to a crawl.


  • Cool blog you have going here, I will check in often! I have a similar site about bird book. It pretty much covers bird book related stuff.

    By Blogger bill naka, At 4:37 PM  

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