What’s Making Me Happy This Week: Cheap Books
This is “What’s Making Me Happy This Week,” a weekly feature inspired by the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
What’s Making Me Happy This Week is the sale currently underway at my local used book store. Their cheapest books – normally $1 each – are 5 for $3 in the month of October! It isn’t like there is a limited selection either – there are several thousand dollar books to choose from. Among the gems I’ve picked up in the past are Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Eleven by Patricia Highsmith, and Little Children by Tom Perrotta.
Typically though I emerge from my browsing with one or, if I’m lucky, two books. Finding five in a single visit proved more difficult than I imagined. That said, it was fun finding two or three worthwhile books and then scavenging to get to my desired five. It probably led to a few purchases (if you can even call them that, since the last two I chose were essentially free) that I wouldn’t have made under any other circumstances. Here’s a list of the five books I bought in my effort to spend $3:
1. “Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy” by Lawrence Lessig. Lessig, professor of law at Harvard Law School, is a thinker, and the subject he likes to think about is intellectual property. Years ago I read his popular book Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity and have since loaned it to others. If you care about the ideas behind intellectual property rights – why we have them, should we have them, how they effect creativity and innovation – Free Culture is a must read. His grasp of these laws in the Internet era is unparalleled. Remix appears to be a kind of sequel to Free Culture, offering solutions to what he sees as a significant problem – our laws restricting the creativity of the young. Having more than a passing interest in IP law, Remix should be a fascinating read to me.
Chances I will read: 8 out of 10.
2. “X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking“, by Jeff Gordinier. Put the phrase “Generation X” somewhere on the front or back cover of your book and you’ve increased my likelihood of reading it by at least 50%. Throw in the fact that the publisher’s description mentions Nirvana, Lollapalooza, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and The Tipping Point, there was virtually no chance I wasn’t purchasing this book. I have a nagging suspicion that it will disappoint, but if all I get out of it are some awesome ’90s references it will have been worth the read.
Chances I will read: 9.5 out of 10.
3. “The Rum Diary“, by Hunter S. Thompson. The only fiction title I picked up on my visit. It took over 10 years of sitting on my shelf to my finally getting around to read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but once I did I understood what all the fuss was about. I don’t know anything about The Rum Diary, but I hope to read it before I turn 50.
Chances I will read: 6 out of 10.
4. “Baseball: A History of America’s Favorite Game“, by George Vecsey. Vecsey, a sports writer for the NY Times since the 1950s, is considered one of the greatest all time sports writers. While I don’t have too much interest in a bland history of baseball (though I do enjoy baseball books when they have a fresh take or perspective, such as Alan Schwarz’s The Numbers Game) I am intrigued enough in the platitudes given to Vecsey that I may eventually read this short book. I only read baseball books in baseball season, however, so at a minimum it will sit on my shelf until next spring.
Chances I will read: 5 out of 10.
5. “The Wages of Wins: Taking Measure of the Many Myths in Modern Sport“, by David J. Berri, Martin B. Schmidt, Stacey L. Brook, Martin Schmidt, & Stacey Brook. The Wages of Wins is falls into a category of books that I almost never fail to read. I am a complete sucker for the academic side of sports, frequenting sites like Football Outsiders and the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, reading the likes of Rob Neyer and Chris B. Brown online, and reading countless books that fit into this mini-genre, such as Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won and Berri’s own Stumbling on Wins. So why haven’t I read The Wages of Wins? When it first came out there was so much press about it that I felt I’d already read the book before even getting my hands on it. Malcolm Gladwell praised it glowingly. Others, like 82games.com founder Roland Beech, criticized it sharply. Taken together, it seemed like a lot of words that some very smart people agree with, and other very smart people disagree with, all to say that Allen Iverson wasn’t very good at basketball. So why pick it up now? Mostly because I needed a 5th book, so why not choose one that I likely would have read in theory, even though I didn’t in practice.
Chances I will read: 2 out of 10.
And That’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week.