I had a problem. My car sat idling outside the waiting room as my keys were dangled in front of me on the outstretched arm of the smiling clerk at Discount Tire. The new rubber was installed and I was supposed to leave, but I hadn’t finished the book I was reading. I wasn’t close, I still had at least seventy or eighty pages left, and I had things to do. But I was hooked; the Australis finally struck the iceberg. And Keller was aboard. I couldn’t stop now.
I flung the library hardcover edition of My Last Continent into the passenger seat and sped over to Crossroads, the un-mall in the glitz-less corner of Bellevue where one of the coveted leather armchairs sat awaiting my arrival, a stout wooden chair already pulled alongside it like an end-table ready to shoulder my coat and coffee. For ninety more minutes I read, finishing the book, comfortable not only in the seat, but in the smells and sounds of my surroundings.
Crossroads is a time machine for me. To smell its hodgepodge of international food stalls, to hear its endless array of free public concerts, and to see the casual, relaxed mingling of its locals is to return fifteen years to when I first moved to Washington State. Never before had I seen such a variety of ethnicity in one place — people from all corners of the world chatted, pushed strollers, ate, and relaxed and browsed together. Nowhere had I smelled the aromas of Thai and Vietnamese foods mingling with the scents of burritos, pizza, dolmades, and empanadas with not a chain restaurant to be seen. Nor had I before seen a life-size chessboard or other gaming tables arranged for public use alongside a satellite library branch. Crossroads isn’t a mall. It’s a community center, market, and melting pot.
I was surprised to see the space formerly occupied by Barnes & Noble empty and available for lease, but it wasn’t what brought me there. Aside from the comfy seating and a chance to snag a quick lunch, I came for my favorite store in Bellevue: Half-Price Books. As its name suggests, Half-Price Books is a second-hand, discount bookstore that happens to also buy used books, music, and movies for cash. I sold a lot of my books here before we left on our trip. Some I wish I still had.
Nowadays, thanks to doing most of my reading on the Kindle, I’ve turned more into a book collector than a book buyer. I keep a running list on Goodreads of books that I have rated 5-stars. These are the books that I’d like to honor with a spot on my bookshelf. Preferably hardcover, ideally first-edition when affordable. So after lunch I opened the Goodreads app on my phone and headed to the alphabetized aisles of the literature section. For $41, here is what I came home with.
My Five-Star Favorites
- Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes – 2010, First Edition, hardcover, very good condition, some slight wrinkling of the dust jacket.
- Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck – 1995 Book-of-the-Month Club Edition, hardcover w/clear jacket protector, new condition (originally published 1961)
- Her Privates We by Frederic Manning – 2013 Serpent’s Tail Edition, trade paperback, new condition (originally published 1929)
- Tai-Pan by James Clavell – Was looking for a collectible copy of Shogun but had been wanting to read the next book in Clavell’s Asian Saga Series anyway, so bought this.
- The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima – Was looking for a collectible copy of The Sound of Waves but saw a stack of this book for $3 each.
- What 12 Debut Authors Did Right on Their Journeys to Publication – Getting published is about getting a well-written book in front of the right person at the right time. And hoping they can convince the other editors at the publishing house to buy into it. There’s a lot of good advice here.
- A Library From the Future Arrives in Denmark – Not just a place to store books, but a space for people to play, renew passports, take classes, and complete civic tasks. And it not only looks out of this world, but has a fully-automated robotic underground parking lot.
- How to Read 200 Books a Year – There’s some rather generous math involved here (fast reading rate, short books) but the gist of it is that if you took the average time you spent on social media and television and applied it to reading, you could easily read a bookshelf’s worth of books each year.
- Cheryl Strayed Was $85k in Debt When Wild Got Published – This is a fascinating interview with the author of the hiking memoir, Wild. What makes this interview so unique is that Strayed doesn’t shy away from talking about money. Her advance, the wealth that followed, and the years of struggle that preceded it all. Too many authors are reticent to discuss the financials, but it benefits all writers to do so.
- 10 Contemporary Novels by and About Muslims You Should Read – Some of my most memorable reads were books written by people from other cultures. And sometimes it’s because it’s a great way of showing how similar we all really are. From fantasy to crime mysteries to a faux-memoir named The Moor’s Account (which sounds fascinating) there’s a bit of everythign on here.
Claw Machines are Rigged – Here’s Why It’s So Hard to Grab that Stuffed Animal – Complete with video and claw machine setting charts, this is guaranteed to anger anyone who ever thought ripped off by one of these machines. It should also throw some cold water on anyone who ever thought they won because of their impressive skill.