Brand building through storytelling

Feasting on remaindered books for $39.95

There aren’t many places left where a person can spend $39.95 and feel royally pampered without consuming any butter fat or alcohol. Turns out one of those places is three blocks away from my office. It doesn’t have a name, just banners shouting, in stocky red letters, “Bargain Book Blowout!” It’s wrapped in those banners, like some regifted doodad you don’t want to open.

Every day for the past 18 months, I’ve been passing BBB without so much as a second glance. Today I felt compelled to check it out. Returning from a failed quest for sensible black winter leggings, I realized what I wanted was something else entirely–food for my hungry soul. A sort of literary buffet—inspiration here, challenge over there, imagined worlds in a corner of their own—where I could graze for a song on all the motley abundance.

Under-lit and overcrowded, BBB has all the charm of a warehouse. No polished wooden shelves, no hand-lettered signs announcing the latest staff picks. The books, filmed with dust, lie jammed on cafeteria tables. To their publishers, these books are mostly dead. To me, a lunch-hour browser, they’re potential adventures. By turning the pages, I can breathe them into being.

Here’s what I bought and why:

* The Collected Stories by Grace Paley.  Because even her titles have presence (“Enormous Changes at the Last Minute,” “Dreamer in a Dead Language”). Because I hastily jettisoned three Paley paperbacks a few moves ago, which may have been a good thing after all. Because now I can have all her vigour and conviction between two covers.

* Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood by Suzanne Braun Levine (founding Editor of Ms.). Because I have a big birthday coming up and take heart from what I found on page 13: “What we are learning about our bodies tells us that nature has by no means abandoned us at this stage, and what is becoming understood about our style of behavior tells us we are not programmed to fade away. On the contrary, we might be as well or better suited to new challenges at this stage of life than before.”

* Imperfect Control: Our Lifelong Struggles with Power and Surrender by Judith Viorst. Because I’ve always admired Viorst’s subtlety and humour. Because to write this particular book, she must have been camping out inside my head (and my husband’s).

* The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays by Caroline Knapp.  Because her previous book Drinking: a Love Story is one of the most courageous memoirs I’ve read and enlarged my understanding of alcoholism, my father’s illness. Because Knapp died at 42 and there will never be any more of her lucid, graceful prose.

* The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide Hope in a Time of Fear, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. Because I need an antidote to the fury and despair in the news. Because this anthology’s eclectic mix of contributors–from Nelson Mandela, Jonathan Kozol, Adrienne Rich and many more–promises a brighter mood, a broader perspective. And because a friend said, “You’ve got to read this.”

Are you wondering how I can justify shopping at BBB when independent bookstores need my business? Quite simply, today’s haul consists mostly of books I’d have purchased nowhere else. I now buy full-price books selectively, one title at a time. No more loading up on $22 novels I may not enjoy or even crack open. When I do succumb to book buyer’s guilt, it’s for shopping at a chain that offers discounts instead of at my local store, where the sales clerk knows me.

Okay, readers. How about you?

Click here to read my post “A few of my favourite books” and here for “Holden Caulfield revisited.” 


Posted by Rona

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