Half Price Book Raid

I stripped my shelves of dozens of books, and afterward they were still crammed, and I still had stacks on my table and headboard. It was a painful, difficult task. I would look at all my fantasy books and immediately find them all to be priceless. I would look at all my books written before 1900 or about time periods before 1900, and could not bear to part with any. But in all harvests there is chaff, and I went through my storehouse of literature and cathartically removed the least nutritious, least savory, and least sweet. I took down these books, including a dozen or so old textbooks, until they numbered 57, and drove to the nearest Half Price Books, which buys used printed stuff.

They gave me $13 for the lot.

It’s not that I had been dreaming of sudden wealth from the sale of 57 used and somewhat useless books. But I did rather hope that it would at least cover the purchases I made. Six books cost me about $27, which is certainly a good deal, but leaves me $15 poorer than this morning. Oh well, minor complaint. The truth is, the value of the books I found is far, far more than $27, or even $72, if it had come to that (which I’m grateful it didn’t).

I found the two other Myst books, in which I was interested after reading Myst: The Book of Atrus.


Myst: The Book of Ti'ana
The Book of D'ni

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip, which I have a dim memory of being recommended to me by some friends in the past. I know nothing of it, but I read McKillip’s debut series The Riddlemaster Trilogy, which I liked despite the spotty writing, and have wanted to explore her more polished writing.

Then there is Three Hearts & Three Lions by Poul Anderson, about which I know even less except that the back cover proclaims it a seminal and influential fantasy novel and that the author’s reputation is among those that have come highly recommended but only vaguely described. But the plot sounded interesting and it was $2 on the clearance shelves, so I doubt I stepped wrong.

And then…a Sutcliff novel! The store had a grand total of two Sutcliff novels, and the other was The Eagle of the Ninth, of which I already have two copies (and have given away a third). This one is a retelling of the tragic medieval tale of Tristan and Iseult (or Isolde), and is aptly titled Tristan & Iseult.

And lastly, Neil Gaiman’s Adventures in the Dream Trade, which is not actually an exciting novel but a collection of sundry items from many sources: an article here, a poem there, and the apparent entirety of the months from February to September from his old blog http://www.americangods.com. It was $2 and I enjoyed the introduction by John M. Ford (where he provided some witty poems that helpfully explained how to pronounce Neil’s name — Gaiman rhymes with drayman), so it was probably a good buy. It occurs to me now that I have read more of his casual writing on his blog and in a few articles than I have of his actual fiction.

Anyway, in more relevant news, I have finished Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn and intend to review it soon. My review of the Doctor Who two-parter “Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” will be delayed, as upon watching it many months ago I was so drawn in to the story that I forgot to take notes, and so will have to refresh my memory before attempting to report on it.

At any rate, God bless you all and Godspeed on your own reading!


  1. My recent Half Price raid (you remember I had a coupon) rendered, among other things, a copy of Eagle of the Ninth, which, due to your recommendation, I bought EVEN THOUGH IT WAS SOFTCOVER (and because a cursory Abe Books search indicated it would be hard to find in hardcover). Haven’t read it yet, but it smells good.

    1. Bekind, try “Bookfinder.” 🙂

      I probably need to cull my books… but at present I am going for the more-difficult and less-painful option: Making custom shelving in order to use whole walls of my house for books.

      …then I will have to cull them to make room for more. *sigh* good for you, David, for making the hard choices. The money may have been pitiful, but refining one’s library is a good, good thing. One of the first (and most repeated) lessons of library school is that libraries, like gardens, require weeding to be healthy.

      1. Aye, and so far I’ve been making the right decisions, judging by the fact that I’ve never found myself longing to reread a book I’ve gotten rid of. That’s basically the benchmark for how I make these decisions: how long since I desired to reread this book, and do I see myself ever passionately longing for just this book? If not, it’s expendable.

    2. Huzzah! I’m so happy to hear that. I gave away my only hardback of The Eagle of the Ninth (and a second edition, no less!) as a very special gift — but after I’d savored the experience of reading it. Hardbacks really are wonderful. Still, I like a high quality paperback too. I do hope you enjoy the story. Be sure to let me know what you think of it!

  2. My wife is a huge, huge fan of Patricia McKillip. I still haven’t read any of her stuff, but I know I will eventually, because… well, did I mention that my wife is a huge, huge fan?

    We’ve been in the process of Half Price Books cullings. We just did one last week, and the only book I picked up in exchange was something about time travel and the forces of good and evil from the future using epic battles from the past as proxies. It looked like a fun, pulpy adventure. Can’t remember what it’s called, but it was only about 180 pages.

    My favorite bit from this post was the punch line: “They gave me $13 for the lot.” Boy, have I been there!

    Hurry up on that Family of Blood post! It’s my favorite story from the Tennant run, and I wanna know if you agree that it’s a masterpiece!

    1. Sounds like a fun premise for a sci-fi adventure. Recently I’ve been drawn to books that suggest lots of promise in a small package, perhaps because I feel like they’re less likely to overstay their welcome if they’re around 200 pages or less. The Last Unicorn is like that — just about the right length for its story, no more, no less. Hopefully your new find will turn out similar in that regard!

      I’ve some friends who are huge McKillip fans. After I remarked on the spotty prose stylings in The Riddlemaster Trilogy, I was quickly assured that she develops into an extremely graceful and beautiful writer.

      I’ll keep it on the burner, don’t worry! I just didn’t want to rush into that story without refreshing myself on just how it developed. I know I was extremely impressed, but I’d like to say something more than just that. +)

  3. I’m looking forward to the Last Unicorn review. 😀

    Also, I’m glad to hear you liked Riddlemaster of Hed despite style issues. I started it, and need to finish it. It’s on my shelf next to my desk at school, and I sometimes find my eyes landing longingly upon it when I’m in the middle of a paper. And then I curse my dearth of free time. Such is the lot of us academic sorts, though.

    1. I was surprised by how much I liked the characters and many of McKillip’s ideas in spite of some of the weaker writing. And the writing noticeably improves. In fact, by the end of the second book, I don’t think I had any more issues with it, and her innovative imagery was starting to work more often than it floundered.

  4. So I went to Half Price Books today as my reward for having finished my Milton term paper, and guess what was just waiting for me on the fantasy shelves? A hardcover Bell at Sealey Head. Exactly what I was hoping for. It was the only McKillip they had, and the only book I came home with.

    Isn’t it wondrous when you find God speaking to you from something so, well, non-spiritual, as a book on a shelf? It’s a reminder that He enjoys and cares about every aspect of our lives. “I’m glad you like books,” He said,”and here’s one for you.”

    1. Marvelous! Every time I find a Sutcliff book on sale I feel that way. Also felt that way upon finding the two other Myst books, because they’re all out of print and hard to find.

      Come to think of it, I think The Bell at Sealey Head was also the only McKillip that this store had. I felt lucky (or rather, blessed) that it just so happened to be the McKillip on my list. (And yes, I did go to the store with a physical list of titles to look for)

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.