Friday, June 12, 2009

Bookhunting Tip# 5,280

Here's an interesting theory. luis katigbak says in kyu's post about finding good books in secondhand book dives:
Ever since the 90s, whenever I find myself surfing through book reviews online, I've been listing down the titles that seem interesting to me in one Word file.

I think a list helps activate one's Book Sale powers because looking back at mine now, I'm amazed at how many of those titles I've managed to subsequently find in bargain bins. ;) Though it usually takes a year or two after I list them down before they pop up in the bins.
That's surprising to note since I also like to compile lists of books I'd like to get, something that I thought only I did. These books-- whether new or old-- are usually hard-to-find on these shores because: (a) they're not available here, (b) they're out-of-print and thus are really hard to find, or (c) they're both. However, through mountain-moving patience and sheer determination to dumpster dive through every book bin of Booksale, Chapters and Pages and the once-a-year Powerbooks warehouse sale, I've managed to score the odd book or two that makes book-collecting worthwhile.

Is this a list-driven power developed as one continuously searches for books, as luis says? I hope so. I do know having the lists help.

I currently have a number of lists that I source through the Internet. These lists of books are usually recommended by editors, writers, or fans favoring conceptual/thematic books like Steampunk or literary fantasy. Others I compile on my own because of good word-of-mouth recommendations (usually the new ones) or because these are 'canonical' or 'classic'.

Here's a few links where I've picked up my lists:

*I always check out the recommendations of fantasist Jeff Vandermeer so it was interesting to see his picks for 10 Books for "Mainstream" Readers and 10 Books for "Genre" Readers.
*The Mind Meld of SF Signal is also a good place to pick up book recommendations like this one about the Forgotten Books of SF/F/H, Non-Genre Books for Genre Readers (see also Matthew Cheney's Literary Fiction for People who hate Literary Fiction).
*Genre chronicler David Pringle's 100 Best Fantasy Novels as well as his 100 Best Science Fiction Novels.

On the other hand, good word-of-mouth recommendations are a priceless treasure and I'm thankful to the irrepressible doug candano for this (culled from his creative writing classes and his own searches through the bookshelves). A quick-check on the 'Net reveals these books are definitely fascinating fiction for those interested in the strange and the wonderful like me:

*The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati
*Piano Stories by Felisberto Hernandez
*Encyclopedia of the Dead by Danilo Kis
*Gogol's Wife and Other Stories by Tommaso Landolfi
*Rhinoceros and Other Plays by Eugene Ionescu
*The Blue Flowers by Raymond Queneau
*The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
*The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki

Any book talk will obviously involve a few recommendations of my own especially for books I'm still searching for, like Robert Irwin's The Arabian Nightmare or Edwin Abbott's Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. I also cited Steven Millhauser's Edwin Mulhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright though doug wasn't that impressed with this one. One book I did think I should have recommended to him is Porius by John Cowper Powys but alas, I forgot. But we did agree that anything by Adolfo Bioy Casares is a good find, especially if it's The Invention of Morel.

So, do you also use lists to help you look for books? What books would you recommend?


Ryan said...

i keep a list of books i've read

cat with the fiddle said...

it's great to know there are many of us who list down the books we want to read! those i come across with on the web or run into in bookstores... i have such a long list of titles!

i enjoy bargain books shopping. and i especially like it when i find a few scribbles or doodles on the margins. i enjoy the idea that the book touched someone else's life before, and now it's about to touch mine. unlike most commodities, books will never lose its value over time. the story will hold just as much power and meaning now as it had then.

twice already have i found "top of the list" titles in bargain bins. all it takes is faith and patience.

banzai cat said...

@ryan: can we see the list? :-)

@fiddler: i know what you mean. my favorite is finding favorite books inscribed by the author's autograph. sometimes i also find poems or phrases in the little spaces in between, it's cherry on top of the ice cream. ;-)