It was something I thought a bibliophile like me would never ever do.
Prior to yesterday, it has been almost a year since I last bought a new book, much less finished one. That’s quite unbelievable for a chap who used to devour three full pocketbooks a week back in his younger days. I enjoyed all kinds of books -- sci-fi, fantasy, classical, mystery, non-fiction, heck, even musty history tomes and medicine books. (I remember myself poring over a gigantic dictionary for hours upon hours; unfortunately it didn’t turn me into the vocabulary monster I had hoped to be!) Once I saw a book lying around in the house that I hadn’t read yet, I’d set to conquer it.
I finally ended my book-drought yesterday when I bought three books -- two fiction, one non -- from a certain bookstore in the Power Plant Mall at Rockwell. I don’t know what precisely triggered me to buy three
expensive books with my own money, which I had never done before. Was it the sight of so many titles I had never seen in the “regular” bookstores, or the fact that I had a wad of hard-earned cash in my wallet ready to heed my caprice?
Whatever the reason, for the first time in almost a year, I felt that unmistakable thrill of picking out a book from the shelf, browsing it with excited fingers, letting the scent of the pages waft to your nostrils, and finally bringing it to the cashier so it is finally, irrevocably yours.
At the end of the day, I lost 1,600 pesos but gained three gems. Were these gems as truly brilliant as they appeared in the bookstore? You bet…except for one.The Historical Hardcover
The World War II 100 by Howard J. Langer
This book was the last of my picks, and the steal of them all. Howard J. Langer’s The World War II 100
ranks the one hundred most influential figures of the maelstrom. Merely seeing the title and the faces of Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and Hitler on the cover from afar was enough to reel in this history buff. Knowing that its price was slashed was of secondary value.
Priced at 459 pesos, the hardcover book is now part of my treasured collection of history books, composed of massive hardcovers ordered from the US and cheap paperback editions used in school. Getting The World War II 100
was like a pledge to myself to not forget my passion for history, which has been eroded by non-stop work.
To think that this all started when I, barely out of prep school, came upon my cousin’s discarded, photocopied-for-school pages on Tamerlane
and his conquests makes me gape at my doggedness.The Very Short Stories
Flash Fiction by J. Thomas, D. Thomas, and Hazuka
The smaller, thinner, paperback Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories
, priced at a whopping 767 pesos, might seem a bad investment, especially when compared with the previous book. However, I’ve always believed that words woven by artists have more value than words written to fill the gaps between facts, theories, and corollaries.Ia
, who was with me, pointed out the aesthetically-ridiculous cover of the book. However, my
skimming eyes pointed out the sterling literature written on the pages, and I decided to make the purchase.
A good part of the fiction I’ve written (some of which you can find on this blog) fall under “flash fiction
”, which wasn’t part of my plan when I started to take creative writing seriously in college. I’m not sure if my buying of the book is a subconscious effort to learn more about flash/sudden fiction, and I’m quite excited to see if the 72 “very short stories” are going to affect my writing in the future.The Doppelganger
Tangled Webs by Elaine Cunningham
The first rows of shelves I go to in a bookstore is the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section, which is perfectly understandable -- one of my first-ever writings was set in a magical world, and most of the “three books per week” mentioned earlier were sci-fi titles bought from bargain shops.
And so I came away with Elaine Cunningham’s Tangled Webs
, the second book in the Starlights and Shadows
saga. Cunningham is one of my favorite authors, and her dark elven heroine Liriel Baenre
is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever met in any form of fiction. Still, the book wasn’t on my “to-buy” list. So, what made me buy the book?
You guessed it -- the cover. The 384-peso paperback featured the great new cover art found in recent Forgotten Realms releases. Sitting beside the book on the shelf was Book 1 of the saga, which I knew I already had just by looking at its cover. The cover of Tangled Webs
looked foreign to me, and thinking that I had probably missed the sequel to Book 1, I bought it. Why not? It was new!
Just before bedtime, I skimmed over the first pages of the novel (as I am wont to do). Oddly enough, the text looked familiar. Chills running down my spine (incidentally, I was also having the real chills after an exhausting day), my fingers sped to the last page. To my horror, I recognized the ending. I had read this novel before!
Sifting through my collection of novels, I had trouble finding the “duplicate” copy. No other book looked like my new Tangled Webs
! Where did I first read the story? There’s no Tangled Webs
here. Look, here’s Daughter of the Drow
, the first book of the saga. And here’s Elfshadow
. And The Magehound
, Tangled Webs
. I was holding my new Tangled Webs
in my hand, and staring at another Tangled Webs
. With a different cover.
My old copy of Tangled Webs
I was right. No other book looked
like my new copy. My old Tangled Webs
was published way before Forgotten Realms changed the style of their cover art. And with my hundreds of owned titles getting the better of my memory, I simply got blinded by the “great new cover art” of the book. Turns out I purchased Book 1, which also had new cover art -- after I read Tangled Webs
, the second book. Heck, I probably didn’t even notice that I had finished the whole saga already!
I tell you, it was a humiliating day to be a bibliophile. Or at least to claim to be one.
* * *
I judged a book by its cover, and what did I get? A duplicate, a few hundred wasted pesos, and a lesson in life. So next time you hear one of those wise sayings, take them to heart, and if possible, take them to heart literally