East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Things readers do: the wonder box


download (2)Compulsive book-buying.
Are you familiar with the phenomenon?
Now, ever since I moved to the wild hills of Astigianistan, I drastically reduced my trips to the bookstore, but back when I was living in Turin, I was a regular fixture in a number of bookstores -a few of which have since shut down and been replaced by fashion franchise stores.
I’d go in for a look at the shelves, and usually get out with two or three paperbacks.
I am a very curious sort of person, so my book bag would include fantasy novels, mysteries, history and science essays, media essays and the classic “hey, look at this thing! I wonder what’s inside… wow, only five bucks!”

Amazon did just make excess buying easier, and ebooks made it cheaper and faster.
Thank goodness I’m broke and bankrupt, or I’d be still spending money on books. But on the other hand, now I get them from free promotions, and in bundles and discounts.
More books than I can read – and before I’m gone through this last bundle, there will be more accumulating!
So, here’s a thing I started doing back when I was in my first year of university.

The Tired Reader’s Wonder Box

$_35You get a big cardboard box – plain or fancy, as you prefer – big enough to hold, say, a dozen volumes, and when you get home from your binge buying, or when the mailman delivers his big pack of Amazon books, you just slip one of those titles inside the box.
Or you put in a couple of those that have been gathering dust on your nightstand this last 16 months.
And then you store it in a cool dry place and plain forget about it until the next package arrives, or the next time you go for a walk and happen to chance on a bookstore.

There will come a time – and you know it will – when no matter how long you crawl through Amazon pages, you won’t be able to find something to read.
Yes, this one might not be bad, but then again… ooh, and this looks really interesting, but what the heck, thirty bucks!
Also, there will be days when you are really, completely, utterly broke.
And days you’d like to read something different and surprising.
And the dread two weeks – or five – during summer when it’s just too hot to go for a walk, and all shops are closed for the vacations anyway.
Or, and this is another thing that does happen and you know, you need a gift with a 2 hours warning, and it’s already 7 pm.



That’s when you’ll go through your box, and rediscover those titles that looked interesting three or four years ago, and that you forgot about.
And they might spark some interest – after all, those were titles you were interested in back then, and so…

I did just that yesterday.
I opened one of my two wonderboxes.
The box – a white sturdy cardboard Ikea box, about two feet by one and a half by one – was buried under a lot of other stuff – and this is good – the last time I checked the contents must have been two years back. I blew off some dust, and opened it.
What a wonder!

  • A stack of cheap Wordsworth Classics
  • A few Clive Cussler’s novels.
  • A few fantasy and science fiction paperbacks
  • An essay about the urban landscape
  • A big book of Roman history
  • a writing handbook

So, this being a period in which I am very easily distracted, I took out three books

. David Drake’s Balefires
. Gaie Sebold’s Babylon Steel
. Charles Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit

Here’s my reading for the next few days. As I was at it, I dropped in

. Jack McDevitt’s The Engines of God
. Martin & Dozois’ Old Mars
. The big Rex Stout omnibus I got for free a few days back.
. three Indiana Jones novels

They’ll be waiting for me the next time I feel the need for something different.

Oh, and you can do something similar on your Kindle!
Just create a folder (I think they are called “Collections”), call it Rainy days and Mondays or Wonderbox or Treasure Chest or something, and move a few of your old, forgotten ebooks in there.
You know there’s a few titles you left behind for later on your reader – use a few of them to create your emergency stash.
For that day when you’ll be bored and at the end of you rope.
And broke.
You’ll be grateful you did it.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

5 thoughts on “Things readers do: the wonder box

  1. Enjoy the Jack McDevitt – I love his books particularly his Alex Benedict series. Archaeologists in space – two of my favourite things 🙂


    • I’ma big fan of McDevitt – and the Alex Benedict stories were the first I read.
      And it’s mysteries about archeologists in space. Three out of three! 🙂


  2. Pingback: Unexpected book haul | Karavansara

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