Friday, December 08, 2006

Purchases I Don't Regret: Part Two

It's time for another post about a purchase I don't regret!

And this time, it's a two-for-one special on hardcover books. Specifically, Zadie Smith's On Beauty and Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

I never, ever buy hardcover books for pleasure reading--I think these are the only two new hardcovers I've bought in the past three years or so. Two reasons: they're a bitch to carry around in my purse, and they're expensive. (An additional reason: I almost never read something that close to its publication date.) I spent close to $60 on these two books.

They were, however, worth it.

Here's why:
1) I really, really wanted to read them. I wanted to read On Beauty both because I think Zadie Smith is an interesting young writer and because it works intertextually with Howards End, one of my all-time favorite books. I wanted to read Special Topics in Calamity Physics because it was being described as a "literary mystery," which is one of my favorite genres (though, as it turns out, if it's one of yours, too, I'd recommend Donna Tartt's The Secret History or anything by Dorothy L. Sayers instead.)
2) I enjoyed reading them (not to say I liked them without reserve, because that's not the case--but I enjoyed thinking through them and forming opinions about them).

Here's the important part, though:

3) Reading them soon after publication (that is, when only hardcover is available) added value to the reading experience. Other people were reading these books around the same time I was, and I had several very enjoyable conversations about them. There is no other time when a book offers that opportunity for lively, engaging conversation with a wide range of people.

I wouldn't make a habit of it, but sometimes it's worth it to pay double the price for the hardcover edition. It offers both the intellectual satisfaction of the communal focus on the book and the visceral satisfaction of holding a nice, fat, heavy hardcover book. And there's always the justification I'd use on my mother when I was a teenager:

"Oh, poor you, your daughter skipped the drunken party in favor of an expensive book."


wanda said...

Hardcover books have a special allure of their own. And they give you that feeling of "I'm investing in a literary collection." ;)

I am a total bookworm as well, so I understand!

S/100/30 said...

In college I was taking an undergrad philosophy class, and one of my classmates was a man in his mid-40s. A few weeks into class I was chatting with him before class, and when he gave his full name I realized that he was a really accomplished journalist who was on campus as part of a fellowship program. "I was just looking at your new book in the coop yesterday!" I exclaimed. "I want to buy it, but I can't afford it until it comes out in paperback."

Not the most sensitive thing to say to an author, but hey, I was 19.

Anyway, he brought me an autographed hardcover version the next week.

Wanda said...

English Major - are you interested in exchanging links? I like your blog and have added you on my page. :)

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Anonymous said...

Trent over at just posted recently about indulging in hardcovers--then ebaying them while they're still hot. A thought in case next time you get a "dud."