Monday, September 22, 2008

Books or food? I guess I'll buy books...

Early in the dissertating process, I figured out that actively doing something, anything, on the dissertation makes me feel better / like I'm "taking care of business." And that includes buying books.

You need to buy the primary source texts (at the very least) for your dissertation. You'll need to write in them, flag them, read them in the bathtub (risking water damage) - they're too important for some lame person to put a "recall" on at the library.

And they're expensive. So here's where to go to buy used copies of the books you'll be living with: is a a company linked to eBay, but it isn't auction-based - there's no bidding and no time limits for when the books are available. Basically, its just a forum for regular people (and book companies) to put books up for sale, and because of the competition (there are often multiple copies of books available) the prices can be incredibly good - often below half price. The down side is that you still have to pay for shipping, and occasionally you get a seller who doesn't describe the condition of the book correctly or doesn't mail as fast as they said they would. But I've bought a lot of books off and have had good experiences with them.

Alibris is another site for buying used books. They tend to have a wider selection of rare and out of print books than (but definitely check both sites first and take the cheaper deal)

If you die during your dissertation process, Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, is where you'll wake up. Seriously, everyone concurs: this is Book Heaven. I have yet to go myself, but am waiting for the's supposed to be the most incredible place. Anyway, I just learned that they have an online component for used books, so check it out.

For in-person rather than online buying, I recommend buying local - Second Story books here in the Claremont village. You can give them a call at 909-624-0757 and ask if they have the books you're looking for. They mostly only carry major texts, but you never know...and its a fun place to visit if you haven't been there (it's easy to miss - it's a single glass door next to Podge's, across from Some Crust in the village. Go through the door and up to the second floor).

Formerly owned by the fabulous Chic Goldsmid (a book and manuscript appraiser and all-around awesome human being) and known as Claremont Books & Prints, Second Story books is now run by an incredibly nice man in his early twenties who has really built up the store's collections of indie prints and graphic novels.

Kyle Hernandez, owner of Second Story books.
Photo by Gabriel Fenoy of the Courier.

You'll pay a little more for used books here than you would online, but the experience will be nicer - you'll get that good feeling that can only come from supporting a local indie bookstore.

And while we're talking about books, can I recommend one for light reading / getting out of the dissertation? Comedian David Sedaris writes incredibly funny and smart short stories based on his life and his absurd childhood. I was feeling down this week, picked up his latest, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and started giggling in the aisle at the book store.

The stories are perfect because they're short (some around 8 pages) and you can just dip in and out of them as needed. No commitment for those of you already committed to books heavier than your car.

So I recommend either When You Are Engulfed in Flames or Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Me write a pretty dissertation one day!


  1. I recommend as a place to check prices across all of these seller sites. You just put in the book(s) you're looking for and it gives you all of the best prices--new and used--from these shops.

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