November 6th, 2009

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Top 5 Expensive Books on My Goodreads "To-Read" Shelf

The list of books I'd like to read is long and ever-growing. Most of them are readily available on Amazon as cheap, used paperbacks; a few, however, remain tantalizingly out of reach.

It doesn't bother me that these books are hard to find. On the contrary, these obscurities bring cheer to my heart.

Why? Because I know that someday, somewhere, I'll be rummaging through the wares of some bazaar or souk, when suddenly the clouds will part, angels will sing, and shimmering in the light before me will be one of the books I've sought after for all these years. And it will be on sale! For like, 3 shekels.

Record-nerds of yore may recognize the sensation I'm describing-- the bliss of serendipitous discovery. Such bliss occurs less often now that we live in an age of digital abundance. Just wait, eventually you'll have the entire frickin' Library of Congress on your Kindle.


  1. I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now

    Author: Damien Hirst
    Price: $585.00
    What It Is: Overview of Hirst's "oeuvre" (I think?)

    I was talking to some art students a while back, when the topic of Damien Hirst came up. They uniformly scoffed. I guess a lot of artists think of Hirst as a vacuous showboat-- all flash, no substance. I still like him though. When it comes to modern art, I'm a fan of big, obvious stuff with a humorous bent. If my favorite artists were movies, they'd be summer blockbusters and crap rom-coms. Examples: Banksy, Olafur Eliasson. Yoko Ono, Duchamp, Janet Cardiff, Bruce Nauman. Well, maybe not Nauman. He'd be a terrible rom-com.

    Odds that I'll actually enjoy reading this if I ever get it: High. I mean, I claim to be into Hirst's art, but in reality I can only think of 4 things he's actually done. (1) the shark preserved in formaldehyde, (2) that blingy skull covered with diamonds, (3) dot paintings, (4) Medicine (the bar). At the very least, reading this will get me up to speed. Also, I'm hoping it will be filled with pithy/mysterious/funny comments from the artist, like Banksy did in his first book.

  2. Telex: Iran : In the Name of Revolution

    Author: Gilles Peress (Photographer)
    Price:$133.88
    What It Is: Collection of pictures taken during the five week hostage crisis in Iran, 1979-1970, when the American Embassy was seized and 52 people were held for ransom. Legendary work in the realm of documentary photography. See some images from the book here.

    Odds that I'll actually enjoy reading this if I ever get it: Medium. I'm sure the pictures are interesting but how much time can you really spend on a book of photos? I guess I can leave it on the coffee table... or the toilet.

  3. Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fourth Edition

    Author: Vernon J. Geberth
    Price: $55.65
    What It Is: Guess.

    Here's a funny/scary comment about this book from someone on Metafilter (emphasis added) -- "I'm an avid reader of criminology textbooks; [This is probably] the best/most interesting book in my little collection. It is extremely detailed and well-researched and much beloved in the field. And it has a chapter about psychics. Not "this is bullshit and you should ignore it." A whole chapter that says, more or less "if you are really stuck, you might want to consult with a psychic." This is in the definitive homicide investigation handbook for professional law enforcement."

    Odds that I'll actually enjoy reading this if I ever get it: Medium. I'm sure it will be fun to flip through whilst pretending I'm McNulty or Bunk from The Wire, but at the end of the day it's still a textbook. This is why I have a Goodreads shelf enjoyed-flipping-through.

  4. A Crack Up at the Race Riots

    Author:Harmony Korine
    Price: $49.00
    What It Is: Korine's stab at writing the Great American Novel. Or, as he puts it, "I at least wanted to write a novel... that's American..." (If you don't recognize his name-- he's the wunderkind who wrote Kids and directed Gummo.) I highly recommend checking out both of his hilarious, bizarre appearances on Letterman. In both cases, he insults Dave, holds his own in the ensuing battle of wits, and emerges victorious. How often do you see a guest do that?

    Odds that I'll actually enjoy reading this if I ever get it: Very Low. Come on, in that Letterman interview they show one page of the book, and it's just one word written over and over again. (Sprockets voice) So conceptual! Now vee dance! This book could very well be the literary equivalent of Gummo. I should take it off my list. Then again... if I found it at a garage sale for 3 shekels I wouldn't NOT buy it.


  5. A Marriage in Check – The Heart of the Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelor, Even

    Author:Lydie Fischer Sarazin-Levassor (trans. by Paul Edwards)
    Price: $37.50
    What It Is: Memoir from Marcel Duchamp's first wife. Their marriage lasted like 3 days. Here's an interesting excerpt from the book. Apparently he utterly ignored her and spent all his time playing chess.



    Odds that I'll actually enjoy reading this if I ever get it: Low. First of all, translated from the French. Four chilling words on par with "nazi rom com marathon" Secondly, "I was married to famous artist for a week" seems pretty weak as the topic for an entire memoir. To be fair, she might be interesting in her own right. But translated from the French... last time I tried reading a book translated from French was Proust, and I threw Vol. 1 out the window.

Note: prices listed are the lowest available on amazon.com (used/new, any edition)