Friday, December 01, 2006

Obsessive? Me?

Every year I pick a book up for AB for Christmas. He enjoys reading a lot, but so infrequently has the time for it. Traveling at Christmas seems to be the exception to this rule when we are both afforded the luxury of a little down time while spending it with family. Particularly while visiting my family, it is a good idea that AB have a good book to absorb himself in. Not that there is anything wrong with my family, of course.

This year I was at a loss as to what book to get AB. He hasn’t mentioned anything in particular. Actually the only book he did mention was the sequel to my December book club selection, Persepolis. But since I knew he would sit down and read it in an afternoon, it wasn’t a worthy candidate for vacation reading. So instead I ordered that the other day, it arrived last night. Leif squealed “Happy Birthday!” while AB opened the box. I went to the bathroom last night, saw it sitting on the floor and was surprised to see he had already read almost a quarter of the book between the time it arrived (5:30pm), when we ate dinner, and when he had to leave for class at 6:40pm. So I am not the only obsessive one.

AB is a sci-fi fan. Not fanatic. Just fan. He loves all the classics, but is fairly particular about the books he reads nowadays. He just doesn’t have the time to sit down and read every single book that looks interesting. He likes the latest Dune books by Herbert’s son and usually purchases those in hardback immediately upon release. That is the only set he is compulsive about reading. He likes Kim Stanley Robinson, but lately has been less than thrilled with his/her books. He read The Sparrow from my book club and then read the sequel and enjoyed those. All of these together and I could not for the life of me come up with a decent book to order for him for Christmas.

I performed a few searches online and sorry to say, every single book or cover looked like a bunch of cheese to me. (Sorry sci-fi fans.) I actually enjoy some limited sci-fi. Two of my top favorite books are considered sci-fi: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Niffeneger. I also enjoyed The Sparrow and KSR’s Antarctica (because I am a polar expeditions buff, a little obsessive about adventure stories in the extreme poles). Still what I saw out there struck me as cheese. Cheese somewhat akin to those sweeping romance novel covers with some bare chested beast of a man bending over a voluptuous woman lying on some chaise. Ok, so I may buy books based off the covers… I did start out college as an art major (2nd to biology).

I decided to wander (in the cold) over to the building next to me that houses the real geeks of my directorate today in search of advice on this conundrum. Wow did I get a wealth of information. I could have saved myself a fair amount of time had I just started out over there. Lesson learned, most scientists like sci-fi.

I placed an order for four books today. I fear I may have just doomed my husband’s final semester of school. I only intended on getting him one book. I bought the first book that the nuclear physicists all declared the most real science in a fiction book. (Which I know is always a problem for AB being a scientist.) It got rave reviews and was evidently published before Frank Herbert died and earned accolades from even him. That gave me the thumbs up since AB thinks Herbert to be “the man”. The other three books comprise a trilogy.

The minute this trilogy was mentioned I KNEW it was for AB. The title was the only thing I had to hear before the “ding ding ding we have a winner bell” went off. I knew I had to get it. I raced back to my office and found it, well most of it. The first two books for $6.99 each in mass market paperback. The third book for $69 available used from private sellers on Amazon. I was certain this was a mistake, a misplaced decimel point and did a little more research. It wasn’t wrong.

I headed back out (in the cold) to the building next door to ask more questions. Is the third book really necessary to the trilogy? (The responses filled the building with roars of laughter and adamant “YES’s”.) Ok, so I figured that… otherwise what is the purpose of a trilogy. I was filled with advice not to buy the books unless I can get my hands on the third. AB would kill me otherwise. Of course these are also my friends and there were offers to loan him the third book. A last resort… neither AB or I like to borrow books unless they are from family (who usually don’t care if they get them back). AB is hard on books and me? It just takes me forever to get through a book anymore.

The obsession set in. I hiked back to my office. (Yes, I do actually work throughout the day.) I started my search. There *had* to be some used bookstore somewhere that doesn’t realize the value of the book. Doesn’t there? I searched… and searched… Apparently $69 is the going rate for a USED version of the book and furthermore, used book stores are quite savvy in knowing what books (particularly out of print books) are worth. I felt dejected.

Because I knew it was SO perfect, I finally decided to just order the first two books and keep my eye open for the final book of the trilogy and if I don’t find it, take one of the nuc guys up on their offer that he could borrow it. I was somehow compelled to try one more search.

Which was not in vain! I don’t know how but I found the book for about $12 (₤6), new, in the UK! A quick check to find out that yes indeed it was in stock and new, and capable of being shipped to the US! I plunked down my credit card number quickly, secured the copy and felt incredibly gratified. A paperback book for $25 (including shipping)? I would normally balk. But I was obsessed… just a little.

Now, I have the perfect gift for AB. And one he would have NEVER suspected in a million years.

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