A Trip to Iowa City: Not Buying One Book!

Prairie Lights Books

  Prairie Lights Books

I am not an addicted consumer.

That’s what I thought.

But I do love bookstores.  Any bookstores.   Amazon, Abebooks, Alibris, Jackson Street Booksellers, Skoob, Prairie Lights, Waterstones, The Haunted Bookshop, The Bookworm, The London Review Bookshop, Oxfam, Barnes & Noble, The Strand…

But since my book binge in London, whence I carried 15 paperbacks in a suitcase I could barely wheel across the airport and mailed a box of books home, I have decided to cut back on buying books for a while.

It has been three weeks since I bought a book.

At first I felt flat.  Now, honestly, I think I am becoming delirious.  E-books don’t count as books, do they? They are so cheap…  and they’re not physical objects!

No, no, no!  I think e-books are books…sort of!

Today we went to Iowa City, and we did not go to any bookstores.  It is a bit odd not to go to a bookstore in a UNESCO City of Literature.

There are, however, many other things to do.

We went to Hickory Hill Park, a beautiful wooded park  on the north side of town.  We THOUGHT we were near the big open field near the cemetery where my mother is buried.  But the park has acquired more acres since we lived here, so we took a wrong turn and got lost.  We found a map in a kiosk by the parking lot–later!

Hickory Hill Park

                               Hickory Hill Park

Then, because we felt like sitting and reading, we went to the University of Iowa Library. Here is a book all will want to read, Gods, Kings and Merchants in Old Babylonian Mespotamia.

IMG_3490No, I don’t actually want to read it! I’m joshing.   But someone will.  It’s on display.

The first floor of the library is a space-age looking area broken up by colored cube-shaped study rooms, soft couches and comfortable chairs, and a cafe with a large-screen TV.  It looks a little like the Jetsons’s futuristic house, sans robot, in the 1960s cartoon show, The Jetsons.

The library looks a littlle like the Jetsons's home, sans robot.

The Jetsons!

We, of course, prefer the floors of the library that actually house books.

I spent an hour reading  journals.  I was mesmerized by a bound volume of the 1960 issues of Analog:  Science Fiction and Fact.  Established in 1930, this  magazine publishes science fiction based on real science and articles on science. I very much enjoyed reading a rather poorly-written novelette by a no-name author (sorry!  I didn’t have even a pencil to take notes with!) about a man with telepathy on a mission to prevent witch-burnings.   It seemed very appropriate for Halloween.

Then there is Classical Journal.  You can never  fall behind in the field of classics, because it is always the same ancient Greek and Latin literature,  but it’s fun to catch up on scholarly journals. It’s not always fun, though. And so I perused a tedious article comparing Cicero’s Pro Archia to Pro Balbo.  SNORE…. Then I read a review of what sounded a really unnecessary abridgement of Herodotus.  Then, in the June 30, 2014, issue, I found a brilliant analysis of  one of Propertius’s elegies, in the article, “MARRIAGE CONTRACTS, FIDES AND GENDER ROLES IN PROPERTIUS 3.20″ by MELANIE RACETTE-CAMPBELL.

If you’re interested, here’s a sentence from the abstract (which I found online):

Propertius 3.20 uses the language of fidelity and contracts that was traditionally associated with solemn legal ceremonies and agreements in his depiction of a socially illegitimate relationship between a lover and his mistress.


And then afterwards we dined.   There’s The Brown Bottle (Italian), Pagliai’s (the thin-crust pizza I grew up on), and the Hamburg Inn (burgers and breakfast:  every  Presidential candidate goes there!).  These are places we ate at with my mother.  And the pedestrian downtown is now mostly a restaurant-bar area, with lots of ethnic food, burgers and chicken wings, something for everybody.  (But the French restaurant did go under.  Too bad!)

President Obama at the Hamburg Inn

President Obama at the Hamburg Inn

If the Hamburg Inn is good enough for the President….

Anyway, can you believe I didn’t buy one book?

11 thoughts on “A Trip to Iowa City: Not Buying One Book!

  1. I’m very, very impressed – well done! I don’t know if I could have managed, but I *am* trying to be better and only buying things I’m sure I’ll read…


  2. Well, done. I especially like the idea of spending time in the library. I too have managed to browse bookstores without buying. I find I am more inclined to buy online since it is so much cheaper. What usually prompts me to buy a book, though, is often a review or a reference. One needs to be wary of reviews as they seem more and more to have a promotional function. When was the last time you read a bad review?


    • Sometimes I find out about a really great book from a bad review! You may be right about the promotional thing. The daily critics at the NYT and some of the English reviewers are tough, but I get the impression many freelance reviewers are afraid to go too far. The whole book industry is precarious.


  3. Libraries are my solace when I know that I really mustn’t buy any more books (a frequent star of affairs in this household). The trouble is that I then bring back yet another pile of books which of course have to be read straight away so that they can go back before their due return date and the newly bought ones sit there still not read and still saying that I can’t purchase any more until they have been.


    • We do need our libraries! It’s always nicer to own our books, but some books we don’t need to own. Some books are “library books,” just for their time.


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