Monday, June 27, 2011

A good read

One of the benefits of not having 24-hour internet access - apart from meaning I subject you people to slightly fewer pointless blogs each month (it'll take more than that to stop me) - is that I spend less time at the computer and more time elsewhere.

Although I still invariably end up wasting the precious gift of life, at least I'm wasting it offline and getting lots of reading done.

Lighthouses erected in the great sea of time

Another classic from the team that brought you Homoeopathy for Sparrows

Books are great, you don't need me to tell you that, and I'm sad that the UK might be losing all its libraries, even though I'm not around to enjoy them any more. That said, I don't have any troglodyte loyalty to the printed page, or mourn its destruction by new technology. After all, there were doubtless a few travelling 15th century bards and storytellers who got pissed off at Gutenberg's printing press when it threatened their livelihoods too... actually, you don't see so much of them any more, do you?

It's not as if printed books are ever actually going to die out, but already I do most of my 'reading' in audiobook form, which is more convenient for wandering around cities and forests, or just allowing me to gawp lifelessly out of bus windows and keep my hands free for eating Nips.

I'll even think about buying a second-hand Kindle or some other ebook reader in a few years if they become really cheap, even though I'm really not a gadget guy (despite having watched Inspector Gadget religiously when I was six - though that was mostly out of confused juvenile desire for his hot niece Penny). For someone as obsessed with travelling light as I am, books are just too heavy and take up too much room if you carry more than a couple.

A couple is all I need though, and thanks to the ethos of libraries being alive and well in the backpacker community, most places (there are some petty exceptions) allow you to make a straight swap when you finish or get bored of your current book and like the look of another one on the hostel's bookshelf.

Unfortunately, this doesn't happen too often for me, because unfortunately most peoples' taste is shit.

Who reads this shit?

Inspector Gadget's hot niece Penny enthralled by Dan Brown's latest cash cow.
Such a turn-off (you still would though, wouldn't you?)

I'm tired of seeing the same few international bestsellers dominating every bookshelf I come across. Do you people really all have exactly the same taste in books, or do you just find it a chore to think for yourselves? But then, I haven't ever read Eat Pray Love, The Lost Symbol or The Swedish Detective Trilogy You Only Became Aware of When Hollywood Did It, so what would I know?

Every so often, someone with strange and/or individual taste contributes some new genetic material to the mix, and I do my bit as often I can, when I'm lucky enough to chance upon a decent second hand bookshop.

I found one this week in Malacca, and was thrilled to see rows and rows and shelves and shelves and spines and spines of cheap second-hand books for sale. Surely there must be something there for me? You'd think so, right? I don't think I truly appreciated the meaning of quantity over quality before today.

The most worrying thing is that these books are second hand, meaning someone actually made a conscious decision to buy them at some point. Here are a few depressing examples:

I would have loved to find a nice science book.
Unfortunately, the only science they deal in is bullshit

Someone restrain me

I don't like it

If Charlie's been a good boy, does he get a happy ending?

I made myself laugh out loud by imagining I'd bought this - a trivia quiz book covering an obscure series of books I haven't read (or even heard of) and have no interest in ever reading. Then sitting in the park trying to answer the questions anyway

Yeah, people are going to buy this in 2011. Why not just throw it in the recycling already?

More outdated fun. Our 20th century ancestors were so stupid

This tragic tome's only hope of sale lies with nostalgia junkies, perverts and confused nans

All these books are real, by the way

Predictably, various forms of spiritual woo-woo feature heavily in this book store, as do weight loss guides, so it's nice to see the twin worlds combined like this. There are still no actual science books.

Maybe that means people buy science books for keeps, and don't wish to sell them on? Nah, I don't think I'm that optimistic for a species that considers
Astrology for Cats publishable

You know, if you just recycled these now, you'd get your shelf back

Talk about scraping the barrel

I hope you enjoyed me literally judging books by their covers there. Other classics available to buy include Happy Days: Fonzie Drops In, The Mobile Phone Cartoon Book (as hilarious as it sounds), The Official Strategy Guide for Tomb Raider II, an out-of-date guide to online business that spells it 'on-line' on the cover (so it's unreliable even before you reach page 1) and a 1987 Longman guide to obsolete database manager dBase III. That's going to be a great comfort on those long bus journeys.

I eventually found a nice book about Scottish folklore, so at least this story has a happy ending - though I had to overcome some mighty obstacles to get there.

Let me know if you desperately need any of these books in your life. I'll be here for a few more days, so I can buy and post them to you - that's assuming they haven't been snapped up already. They haven't.


  1. I lol'd at so many of those books.
    And yes... Penny is awesome! I used to 'be' her in so many of my childhood games!

    (The Grange Hill Annual is my favourite)

  2. Just because you fancied Casey Jones from TMNT.

  3. That is amazing. Oh also, have you ever seen a Kindle in action? I've been going on about wanting one for YEARS and then I was at Gatwick a few weeks ago with some hours to kill, and I found one to play with in Dixons. It made me sad, the screen looked cheap and nasty and the OS was like an old version of Windows :'(

  4. Never seen any modern gadget in action - Kindle, iPhone, iPad. I don't like the idea of them too much, just the practicality of size - but I guess I could just carry tiny books. Like a New Testament and Psalms or Mr Bump.

  5. I have a small New Testament I could send you!!
    But you know... I use it so much, I'm not sure I could part with it.

    I love Jesus. He is my bro

  6. Really? I thought Mr Bump would be more of an inspiration to you. (Or Mr Pint, if they wrote that one?)

  7. If only thay had Mr Pint...

    I miss drinking pints :(

    Stupid Australia and they're small alcohol servings

  8. they're/their.. same same unless Katie is reading this..

  9. I anthropomorphised you:

  10. I second Lana's point - stupid Australian serving sizes!

    I would also second her point about having a small version of the Book of Luke that some bloke had given to me on the street, but she has a slightly different religious tome.