I love used books!

I buy a lot of used books. Used bookstores are my kryptonite; I can’t go into one without buying at least five new books. Sometimes people try to tell me that buying brand new books is better than getting someone’s run-down, beat up, second-hand book, but I disagree and I’m going to tell you why.

Can you guess which ones were purchased as brand-new versus used?

        Can you guess which ones were purchased as brand-new versus used?

  • Used books hold more stories than the ones written on their pages. Think about it: who was its pervious owner? Where was it read? Has it been to more countries than you? If that book could talk, it would probably have an exciting memoir to recite.
  • Coffee stains on white pages got you down? Well, stop being so particular! If someone has stained their book it only means that they couldn’t take a five minute break from reading to eat, which has to be a good sign. If someone else couldn’t put that book down, you probably won’t either.
  • Used books are cheaper than new books! Sure, you could argue that e-books are (sometimes) even less money, and using a library card is always free, but sometimes you just need to own a particular book.
  • I might be pretty unique in liking worn out books — I make a point to destroy book spines — and many of my friends shudder when they hear me say I’d rather have tattered pages than perfect, straight ones. While most used books are old and loved, not all of them look it. A lot of used books do look brand new!
  • Sure, that new-book smell is awesome, but musty old books smell great too.
  • Getting lost in used bookstores is almost as fun as reading. They are usually organized in some way, but more often than not the shelves are stacked with more books than you could image. What’s wrong with wandering amongst shelves for an hour or so trying to find that next awesome literary adventure? Nothing.
  • If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some super old books it feels like finding an artifact from the literary world. A lot of old books have hand-sewn spines, beautifully illustrated covers, and hold so much history! These, friends, are the real treasures of the book world.
  • Sometimes used books have notes scribbled in the margins. This is awesome, as it gives you the opportunity to see what previous readers were thinking. Did they interpret that character the same way you did? Did they pick up on some foreshadowing that you missed? These notes will get you thinking about books in ways you might never have thought of!
  • Used bookstores are usually independently owned, and need your support! Plus, owners/staff are always super knowledgeable and friendly.
  • Buying used books is also environmentally friendly. Need I say more?

I love libraries!

National Library Week ends today, but I think that every week should be National Library Week; libraries are totally awesome and should always be celebrated!

Libraries are full of shelves and stacks and little nooks and crannies of books that you are allowed to borrow and read FOR FREE! This is especially awesome for a bookworm like myself, because there’s no way I could afford to buy all the books I want to read. So really, what is better than an entire building filled with books just waiting to be read, that also actively encourages you to come hang out and feed your mind with adventures and imagination and general amazingness? Nothing.

I could go on forever about how much I love libraries. I’ve been frequenting them for as long as I can remember. My local library growing up, which was a converted old railway station, hosted story-time for young children, summer reading programs for tweens and teens, and is still pretty awesome to this day. Back in the ‘90s, it also had computers that you could use to access the internet! Way cool.

In university, I practically lived in my school’s library. Since I double majored in History and English Literature, I pretty much read all day until my eyes started bleeding; it was fantastic.

Now, being a young, hip twenty-something, I still hang out at my city’s local library. It was recently renovated, and is now full of beautiful artwork, high ceilings, tech-labs, performance rooms, and of course, more than enough books to fill my tiny apartment with. It also has a wicked coffee shop inside, which is great for fuelling my brain during those afternoons when I just need to finish the last 100 pages of a totally awesome story.

But I often feel like libraries don’t get enough love. How many of you hang out at them regularly? Or, if you do, how many of your friends or family go with you?

I understand that not everyone loves to read, and most people associate libraries with a love of reading. However, that’s not necessarily true. Take a look at this year’s theme for National Library Week: Libraries Transform.

What does that mean? Well, I like to think that it means libraries, and their programs, transform those traditional ideas and notions of their very own institutions.

Traditionally, libraries have been a place where the general public can go to educate themselves (typically for free) through written text. Now, though, we’ve started to gravitate away from only learning from books, which is a great thing.

You can now go to libraries and access the internet (which might still be a big thing for some people), you can take courses, watch performances, join clubs, meet up with friends, or even learn how to 3D print something. 3D printing in libraries! Who would have ever thought?

Libraries are spaces for thinking, creating, collaborating, and sharing ideas. They now transcend physical books, and offer so much more. You can access digital archives, see special collections, and learn more fun facts than you ever thought even existed. Libraries are bursting with free knowledge.

So what are you waiting for? Go get your library card.

Water on Mars: A Literary Perspective

Anyone who went on the internet today probably noticed a lot of articles about Mars. Earlier this morning, NASA made their biggest announcement since the New Horizons probe passed by Pluto in July: researchers have discovered that present day Mars has liquid water.

WATER. ON. MARS! This could yield so many more discoveries! We already knew that Mars once held an ancient ocean and has polar ice caps, but running, liquid water is so much different. It contains the building blocks of life!

Hold up: isn’t this blog supposed to be about books? Yes. But as many of my friends know, I love outer space almost as much as I love books. Plus, there are many novels that take place on the red planet.

In fact, earlier this evening I saw multiple comments about how much easier it would have been for Mark Watney (from Any Weir’s The Martin) to grow potatoes on Mars with all this newfound water. If you haven’t read The Martin yet, you really should, especially before seeing Matt Damon on the big screen.

My immediate literary connection, however, was Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. This series of short stories was published as a collection back in 1950 before humans had even visited the moon. Before being published as a collection, Bradbury had his stories published throughout the 1940s in various magazines.

Martian Chronicles

The overall plot of The Martian Chronicles is something that many people have envisioned in the past few years: the colonization of Mars.

The first set of short stories see the first humans flying off to Mars in 1999 to begin settlements because Earth is slowly deteriorating. The first expedition of humans are met by an indigenous Martian and killed. While the second expedition of humans are travelling towards Mars, the Martians are able to pick up on their thoughts because they are telepathic.

The Martians telepathic powers cause such intense hallucinations for some that they are placed in an asylum. When the second expedition of humans arrive, they are believed to be yet another group of mentally ill Martians, and they too are placed in the asylum and eventually killed. The third expedition also results in failure.

Despite losing all contact with previous expeditions, the naturally curious humans on Earth continue to send more shuttles towards Mars. They are desperately trying to find a new location for human life to thrive, as an nuclear war is approaching.

By the fourth expedition, humans are successful. They discover that the majority of Martians have been killed by contracting the chickenpox from previous expeditions. This scene has often been juxtaposed with European explorers killing indigenous populations throughout the Americas with smallpox.

The rest of the stories are about humans colonizing and terraforming the planet in order to make it their new home. There are a number of stories depicting the last remaining Martians, the discovery of Martian ruins, and the extremely fast colonization of Mars.

When The Martian Chronicles was first published, Bradbury had already made a name for himself among science-fiction crowds. However, this collection of short stories brought him criticism, because it was seen as an unrealistic vision.

I can only imagine what Bradbury would have said today when NASA made their announcement about the discovery of liquid water on the red planet. This discovery brings humans one step closer to finding a second, habitable home; a vision that Bradbury put on paper over 60 years ago.