Today I went and bought about $70 of used books. This has been my scheme for celebrating summer vacation for a couple of months now. I took my brother and sister to restrain my spending impulses. We drove around town for a couple of hours, because my list of used bookstores off the internet and an old yellow pages was rather outdated, so my siblings got to put up with me swerving around the downtown. Every time we found an address, we passed it, so there were a lot of u-turns.

Eventually, we arrived at a large bookstore, and discovered all sorts of things: Ngaio Marsh paperbacks, Happy Hollisters mystery books (Nancy Drew type, but with a cast of five siblings, now rare and difficult to find in libraries), and several Robert Heinlein paperbacks (I managed to buy only three). Then we drove to a small bookstore, which turned out to be Christian, with a collection of every book ever published on the topic of creation vs. evolution, and most books ever written about America’s Christian heritage. Excellent and edifying, but not exactly what I was looking for. We did buy a book by Ray Comfort: “God doesn’t believe in atheists: proof that they don’t exist” as a birthday gift for a homeschool graduate.

Next, we drove to a small town inhabited by left-over hippies, who stroll the streets in 60s garb, wearing long hair and flowers. The shops are of a kind: new age music, pottery, health foods, coffee beans, and a book store with lots of comics and anime. The bookshelves here were stacked almost to the ceilings, and there were rows of books laid along the floor, as well as stacks spilling over here and there. Nowhere near as neat as the big chain store, but lots more fun. Here, I found several paperbacks of Margery Allingham (inventer of Mr. Campion), and obliged myself to take only six, the earlier or rarer books. (Traitor’s Purse is the best spy/mystery story ever, set in England during WWII, but don’t read it first, because you have to know Mr. Campion before it makes sense. Mystery Mile is the first.) Also several collector’s editions of Heinlein, Tom Swift, and Dune, but I didn’t buy those. When I asked for Whittaker Chambers’ Witness (it’s so long, I’ve run out of library renewals), the guy directed me to the fiction section. What you’d expect in that town, of course. I was disappointed not to find any of Leslie Charteris’ Saint books. I’ll have to wait till I accumulate more money from tutoring, and then buy some over the internet. I also bought a couple of Trollope books (only $4 each – can’t miss those), some more Happy Hollisters and Five Little Peppers sequels (that ought to take care of birthdays and Christmases for a while). At least I resisted the temptation to buy a complete set of hardbacked Agatha Christies (twice – both bookstores had one!), several Horatio Algers, lots and lots of Hardy Boys, and miscellaneous retellings of King Arthur. I also didn’t buy any books by Tom Clancy. (This is how I explained the large influx of paperbacks to my parents.)

So by the time you count it all up, 23 books for $70. That’s not bad. I just realized. They’re almost all pocket editions. Is it ethical to put mysteries in your coat pockets when you’re on rounds? No. Absolutely must not. I hope I won’t want to. First and second year students, when they spend time with doctors, get incredibly bored, because there’s nothing they can do (if there’s anything simple and scutty enough, the third years and interns get it). So I spent a fair amount of time on my electives leaning against the desk while the doctor charted. But now that I will (hopefully) be charting and doing scut work of my own, I won’t need books in my pocket. I guess that means I’d better go read them all right now.

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