Browsing My Bookshelves When My Favorite Used Bookstore is Closed

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, August 17, 2020

Since I can’t go book shopping, I’ve decided to browse my own bookshelves instead. I’m amazed by what interesting books I find there.

It’s been months since I’ve shopped at my favorite used bookstore, Second Editions. I use to visit it at least once a week. I certainly don’t need any more books, there are already thousands on my to be read pile. Over the years I’ve discovered that my reading habit is entirely separate from my book-buying habit. I love to read and I love to shop for books — I just don’t always read the books I buy.

The other day I browsed through my entire library of 1426 audiobooks looking for all that contained short stories. Time and again I was amazed by what I owned that I hadn’t listened to yet (I can’t resist a good sale). Once again, I told myself I needed to stop buying new books and read or listen to what I already own. But I love going to Second Editions, the used bookstore run by our Friends of the Library.

I never know what I’ll find. Sometimes it’s an old book I’ve been hoping to find again, or it’s a book I never knew I wanted but had to buy, or it was a hardback copy of a book that just came out that I was thinking of paying full price — that’s how I got Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson for $5.

I’ve only got five six-shelf bookshelves to browse — but I’m overwhelmed by how many books I find that I want to read. Strangely, it’s 100%. Well, maybe not so strange. Because of my limited shelf space, I tend to donate books back to the Friends of the Library of those I’ve read or decided I’m not going to read. My self-imposed rule is I can’t own any more books than I have bookshelves. I’ve technically broken this rule because I’m currently allowing myself a legal loophole by shelving some books at the top of my clothes closet. Those three six-foot-wide shelves really do look like bookshelves. (But don’t tell my wife!)

Second Editions bookstore is closed for the duration of the pandemic. I know everyone is missing their favorite places to hang out, so I shouldn’t whine about missing mine. However, I do miss it. And browsing my own bookshelves looking through the books I often bought at Second Editions does help a little, but not much. It does help me empathize with young people who can’t resist gathering in public places during a pandemic.

I wonder if I pulled out a few books, and gave myself a twenty if the experience would feel more like visiting Second Editions? Maybe Susan could pretend to be the clerk at the cash register and we could chat a bit about books?


Too Many Paper Towels

I’ve become a semi-bachelor this year when my wife had to take a job out of town.  Because of this new status I have to do my own shopping, and I’ve always hated shopping.  When we first got married over thirty years ago, I volunteered to do the laundry if Susie would do all the shopping.  Learning to shop properly is hard to do, as I’ve discovered late in life.  And with the current climate of shopping to save money while also being green, I feel like I need to buy subscription to Money Magazine, Consumer Reports and The Economist to effectively make a foray to the grocery story.

Susie always bought large bundles of paper towels that we had to squirrel away in all our closets that would take years to use.  Well, the last batch ran out this past week, and since we have a couple of cats that love to groom and puke, paper towels are a necessity.  Of course this could be a green issue.  I could wipe up my feline family member’s hairball regurgitation with a rag that I could wash out, but that’s time consuming and messy, so I take the easy paper route of buying towels.

When I got to the store and the isle with the paper towels I made a troubling discovering – there are dozens of choices.  I didn’t remember which brand Susie bought.  I stood staring at the selection for several minutes not knowing what to do.  I considered asking one of the many women passing by but worried they might have considered my genuine ignorance as feigned male stupidity for a pick up line.  There were so many brands, so many styles, so many patterns, so many bundle choices, and I figured I’d needed a laptop and a spreadsheet to calculate which was the cheapest if I figured for length of roll, number of sheets, number of plies, and number of rolls in a bundle.

And even more confusing was trying to figure out quality.  Some looked pretty cheap and were cheap, and others looked cheap and were not.  And none of them claimed to be good for barf removal from rugs.  I stood there totally befuddled, not knowing what to do when I saw the name “Brawny.”  Hey, I remembered that from the TV, and it sounded manly, and I’m a man, so I figured that was a sign from God.  I bought one roll, thinking I’d give ole Brawny the vomit patrol test.  When my wife got home this weekend, all she said was, “I like the kind that have the half-sheet tears.”  Well, they do clean up after Nick and Nora just fine.

The question now is did I get a good buy?  I have no idea.  I don’t know how much I paid for that Brawny roll.  In my panic to select I didn’t look.   Just now, I jumped on Google and started studying the problem.  First off, I found that there are paper towels promoted as being green because they are made from recycled paper and less chemical processing.  And there’s toilet tissue also made from recycled paper.  This sounds like a no-brainer, so the next time I buy I’m going to look for recycled paper products, but I don’t remember seeing that at my store.  GreenDealsDaily also recommended 100% biodegradable sponges, but that sounded nasty when I imagined how all those cat crunchies expanded with digestive juices would clog up its pores.

There’s lots of confusing information on Google, but after looking at several links, I found Paper Towels and Napkins vs. Cloth.  Melissa Breyer rates various types of cleanup solutions by their friendliness to the Earth.  I’m sold on recycled paper products, but she also makes a good case for cloth napkins and towels

If I go with cloth I’ll have to wash them, but I won’t have to shop for paper towels anymore – a relief that saves money.  I wonder if I can live without them?  Since I hate shopping, this decides the issue for me, and it gets me out of the math of figuring out which paper towels are the best buy.  However, if I spot some of those green recycled paper towels I might buy them to keep for fast cleanups like when I hear the lovely call of a retching cat when I’m trying to run out the door to work.