Tech. Travel. Nerd Culture.

Bookstore Hopping with Jenn & James in Santa Cruz

Over the previous, previous weekend (yes, this is an over one week old post, June 14th was the date), I had the opportunity to spend a day with my good bibliophile buddies – Jenn Powell & her hubby, James – book store hopping in the Santa Cruz and Los Gatos areas. It was an exhilarating, yet exhausting, day quenching our thirst for word pR0n while combing through shelves of books sacrificed from the bodies of trees and ink.

Yes, I do buy books faster than I can read them. I won’t be bored forever because of books (movies, music, the company of good folks, and liquor helps along too). They expose me to great experiences and conversations with people smarter than me. As I’m catching up to read ’em, I end up with a habit, like a lot of other book lovers (esp. Jenn & James), to stack books high around my living space until the area becomes a maze to look for my undies and remotes. But, who needs undies when I can Jenga a book that I’m in a mood for during the moment I’m nekkid. Okay, I’m veering off topic here…

Side note: Folks have said that I need a Kindle (but not ask “why not?”) when I rant about my joy for physical books. I do read digital ebooks. Both on my PC and IPad, I have hoarded as much ebooks as much as my longass Netflix queue. But, I enjoy the look & feel of a physical book between the grips of my hands. The musky odor of bookshelves speaks volumes of knowledge & experiences to me. And, as I may have mentioned before, I dream of building an underground library labyrinth within my future home. Every book I buy is like layering a brick to this dream. But, I do want a Kindle, tho. I’m an Amazon Prime whore, so it’s fitting that I pick one up soon to fulfill the techie nut in me.

Anyways, here’s how my bookstore hopping adventure went along…

First stop was Logos Books & Records

I’m often amazed how music records have survived to this day… maybe, in part, because of Urban Outfitters having revived a hipster subculture with vinyl. Logos is like a used Tower Records to me but with more books than music. (Man, how I’ve missed my San Francisco Stonestown visits.) Barring myself from the music section, I was immediately taken to see what was in the “new used” and “staff recommendation” sections. It was the PKD series (Philip K. Dick) that caught my attention but there’s like 20-something volumes in the collection, and I’m too much of a completist to just start with one or two. I still have Dick’s Exegesis sitting on my shelf at home to blow off the dust and crack open first. So, these could wait.

Being a fan of Californication (guilty pleasure, love the show, so shutdaphuck up), I moved on to look for something by Charles Bukowski. But, the prices (compared to Amazon) are outrageously expensive. Not having given up yet, tho, more about my search for this author later. Movin’ along…

I ran over to the “Films & Media” section, as I haven’t read a good book about filmmaking in ages. Deciding if I wanted a bio about Katherine Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe or the films by the Coen Brothers… the first book I grabbed was Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World’s Most Notorious Horror Movie by Gunnar Hansen for $6.50. This book was in pretty great condition, and has been on my Amazon wish list for some time. There was a sticker label “advanced reader’s copy. not for resale” on the cover but it contains the same content as the one out on the market. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of my favorite horror films growing up during the 80s. And, the insane story behind its creation still fascinates me. I’m looking forward to reading this.

Then, I hopped from the “Philosophy” section to the “Cultural Studies” area, and skipped through a section about UFOs (occupied by some guy who keeps looking over his shoulder), then stopped at the "History" section. There I picked-up The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer for $8.50. I’ve owned this book some time ago and actually began reading it. With the humungous tome at about 1200 pages in the tiniest print that won’t require me to use a magnifying glass yet, I had read about 100 pages when I first owned it. But, because of the disciplined task to finish this book, I had sold it off believing I will revisit it sometimes later in life when I’m ready again. The time has come…

Over at the “Science Fiction & Fantasy” section, there’s a large overstock of books by Tolkien, Clive Barker, Stephen King… but off to the side of the shelf, something caught my eye: Werewolves by Jon Izzard. A book that documents the history of lycanthropic themes in the media. Since my youth, I’ve often fantasized that if I ever could change into a creature of the night, it would be a werewolf. Mainly, inspired by “The Howling” and “An American Werewolf in London,” (oh, and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller“) some day I may howl at the sight of a full-moon. Or, just dress up as one on Halloween but not sure if that experience is realistically the same.

With these books, I was ready to checkout, where I’ve encountered the most awkward cashier. I at most got a ‘Hi’ out of him, and he couldn’t look me in the eye. I had to fiddle with the pamphlets on the front desk as he was figuring out how to set up the credit card machine. It may be that he was put-off by my reading choice in chainsaw serial killers, Nazis, and werewolves. *shrug*

I forfeited purchasing a bag, as it costs a whole quarter for one. (Geezus, in the Bay Area it’s 10¢.) But, as I walked like a schoolboy throughout the streets of Santa Cruz with my first batch of books in hand, I was exposing a swastika on the cover and binding of my The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany. I was wondering if folks had mistaken me for a Japanese. Amelica, why you so waisist!

We took a brief break for lunch eating pizza (forgot the name of the spot) to curb our hunger and trade witty insults. Unsure how many times Jenn was laughing with me, or at me. But, I’m sure my feelings were butt hurt somewhere in between slices. I always got my books to drown my sorrow into, tho.

Next up was Book Shop Santa Cruz

This spot felt like an indie Barnes & Nobles. Most books are sold at retail prices, but each area is populated with a sales/discounted section. There was also a "used" books bin in the middle area which you don’t normally find in a mainstream bookstore. Sifting through that was a lot of old classics and "how-to" manuals, but didn’t find anything of interests or from my "wish list".

The next section I ran over to was “Science Fiction” because a good epic sci-fi always defaults to my interests in something I can escape into without feeling I have to melt my brain for it to happen. Then, woo-hoo! A copy of All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka sat staring me in the face in the “New Releases” of the shelf. It’s the translation of the Japanese novel that inspired the new flick out, “Edge of Tomorrow“. It’s always good motivation to get a book to immediately read when it involves a movie tie-in. I bought this for regular price, as it’s been hard for me to locate it in any bookstores of late.

On to the sales area in the “Fiction” section, I was hoping to find something from the list of Book Riot’s From Zero to Well-Read in 100 Books, as I have a challenge with a buddy of mines to become well-read some day. Instead, I came upon 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King for a little over $6 bucks. Another one off my “wish list”. Most King fans have swore by this book. Recently, I have read “Doctor Sleep,” the sequel to the Shining, that left a bad taste in my mouth. Hopefully, this book will make up for it.

To counter-balance my fictional choice, I browsed through the “Non-Fiction” discounted area. One book that I kept circling around was The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (hardcover version) by Steve Pinker. This one is also on my “wish list” but wasn’t sure if I’m ready to tackle such a subject, as I have many more non-fiction (moreso than fiction) stuff stacked at home. I can read practically anything (except for sparkling vampires) but when it comes to non-fiction, it becomes a disciplined task that involves ruminating ideas that may take longer than the act of reading it. I’m always defaulting to the choice that makes me the most laziest. I fight against my morose judgment and go with the idea of the price tag of this book at $8.50. I grabbed the heavy tome before I changed my mine.

I was finally done with this store, and checked out. No weirdo cashier this time. I was greeted with a friendly smile, and some free bookmarks…

Made a quick stop over at Comicopolis where Jenn berated us for being a couple of “nerds”. After her abusive giggling, she quickly became silent and picked up a box of Edward Gorey‘s puzzles. She turned it over and over… I whispered to her “get it! get it!” as if I was tempting her to open Lemarchand’s box from Hellraiser. For reasons unknown, she resisted, and refused to join us legion of nerds.

Instead, her and James wanted the next stop to be a local dessert shop (forgot the name of the spot). I am terrible at remembering names of restaurants. Ask me where to buy books or grab some drinks to get intoxicated, I will have answers for you. But, when it comes to food… I’ll eat anything. I didn’t join them for dessert, tho. I just wanted more books.

The last bookstore stop was Recycle Bookstore in Los Gatos San Jose…

This instantly became my favorite of the three. I don’t think I saw a single new book in this shop. Books were stacked up in all directions, and it felt like home. Although, practically everything was in order by section and genre, it wasn’t as disarrayed. There is a method to the madness of sifting through book stacks; it’s almost like flashforwarding without being linear in the browsing experience. What made this shop somewhat unique was that I didn’t notice a “New Releases” section. So, nothing was at retail or regular price. This spot was Amazon‘s nemesis.

The Exorcist for only $1.50!As you may have surmised, I am an avid fan of horror. Although, I can’t say I have read (or even watched) much scary stuff in recent times. So, I’m always hovering around the “Horror” section hoping for something good again… it’s been years, maybe a couple of decades, since I’ve experienced a real good scare. Imagine my excitement when I found The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty for only $1.50! And, another one to mark off my “wish list”.

The “Science Fiction & Fantasy” section was huge. I think it expanded on for 3 rows. I was searching for the Complete Conan the Barabarian collection or a hardcover version of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, but, surprisingly, I couldn’t find either of ’em despite the large selection to choose from. Instead, I found for a couple of bucks a copy of Neuromancer by William Gibson, continuing my recent foray into cyber punk literature.

In the “History” section, I scored a couple of good books where I was able to knock off a couple more from my “wish list”: The Chinese in America: A Narrative History (hardcover version) by Iris Chang (if you haven’t read her “Rape of Nanking,” it’s some mindfuck of a read) for $7.50 and Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff for about $7 bucks. The later, I had to plow through a bunch of bios of Caesar and Mesopotamian war chronicles, which I may visit sometimes after I tackle the Nazis.

At this point, browsing through “Fiction,” I felt the strain of my budget. Again looking for Bukowski proved to be too pricey, and it would be smarter that I’d just grab his stuff on Amazon. I’m down for supporting Indies, but I can’t go broke doing it. Then, I found I had to decide between Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road (loved the movie) or Letters from the Earth : New Uncensored Writings by Mark Twain. I made a choice on Twain’s wit and the price tag of $1.99 being the better bargain.

book orgy 2014

I noticed that Bukowski, Hemingway, and Humurakami are popular authors in the current hipster generation. So popular that their stuff were displayed to be “asked for them at the front counter”. Bukowski’s Women is one of the most stolen books. Imagine that, Millennials stealing to read… During the bookstore hopping, I was hoping to find Ariana Huffington’s Thrive or Marilyn Monroe’s My Story because I’ve been fascinated with female biographies since I read Sharyl Sandberg’s Lean In recently, but those books are either pricey, not available, or being stolen. But, the overall experience, I’ve learned that even though Amazon has cheap used prices, I save big on shipping by buying at the bookstores.

I still have not decided which book to begin out of the bunch I have purchased. Chances are, I prob will start with Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill, to prepare for my plans to watch “Edge of Tomorrow” soon. I am super curious about delving into The Exorcist for some good horror fiction, but it’s been years since I had sleepless nights. And, I’m scared shitless to start again. But, I will probably end up with cracking out the pages about the Chinese in America or Cleopatra for some historical non-fiction. Or, I may just run off to the local indie bookstore this weekend to continue building my underground library.

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