Ode to a Book Search

17 Sep

Yup – I’m buying again. But this time it was a limited buy. In honor of a rare success in my effort to limit my purchase to my initial goal, I’m going to detail how I spent the last two hours.

First, I’ve already spent my September budget – mostly. Technically I had about $20 left but my to-read stack is massive and there aren’t a lot of books on my wishlist for under that. So I thought my September spending was over – with the possible exception of a one-day Conference September 28 which will bring me in close proximity to a really good used bookstore. Used bookstores are exempt from all purchase requirements, as are buys at conferences because, well, I know when resistance is futile.

To get back to business, this morning I received an e-mail from Barnes & Noble about a 30% off coupon offer for a single book, offer expiring September 21. My mother may have raised some stupid papooses but I ain’t one of ’em – 30% off gets me close to conference discount territory (hence negating my monthly limit). Like that little bit of rationalization? This afternoon after getting home from work, I went for it.

The key to this offer was the single book. My next planned purchase is Libanius – but the combination of the Translated Texts for Historians selection of his work and the Loeb set are counted on a hand – not with a finger.

So I had to set out to find the book. For this I used Library Thing. Logged on, went to my wishlist and selected books tagged Late Antiquity. From there it was book-by-book. Now I didn’t closely examine every book. I probably brought 40 titles up and copied them onto the B & N website. Not all of them made the initial cut. Some were just too expensive – 30% off a $150 book is still beyond what I planned to spend. Others weren’t available at B&N. I like their site and service and buy from them when I can but Amazon has more books.

Once the smoke cleared I had 13 books listed. One was priced at only $21 so it left early – no point using up a discount just to save 6 bucks. Others had weak reviews or, once I checked out their content in some detail, weren’t what I’m looking for right now (no book lost its place on my wishlist). In the end I narrowed the search down to four titles (I’m not properly citing because this is an informal post); The Cambridge edition of Origen’s Contra Celsum, translated by Henry Chadwick; Claudia Rapp’s Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition; Jeremy Schott’s Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity and; Ann Marie Yasin’s Saints and Church Spaces in the Late Antique Mediterranean: Architecture, Cult, and Community.

Out of that list the early leader, based on price, was Yasin. Taking an $80 book into the 50’s? Not bad. And she had received an excellent, not a review actually but comments from Bill Caraher’s Archaeology of the Mediterranean World blog. But as I scoped the blog again I decided it looked like it might have an emphasis on the Eastern Empire and I need to hang out in the West for a bit.

That got me to Origen. The Contra Celsus is just plain necessary when discussing the early Church. I have a downloaded version but this is the only way I’ll ever read it. Here I encountered disaster (well, in a very shallow, book-buying-on-the-internet-with-a-coupon sort of way). For whatever reason, this book wasn’t eligible for the discount. I read the terms and still don’t know why.

So that got things to Schott and Rapp. I re-read both reviews and still liked both books. But Rapp seemed a bit broader and did not have as much emphasis on detailed examinations of early Church literature. I like detailed examinations of literature, but today I wanted an examination of the evolution and role of the office of Bishop from the Third through Seventh Centuries.

In the end, I saved about $12, less than I’d anticipated. But I also spent less than I’d anticipated and even stayed pretty close to my September budget. Libanius in October is still part of the plan and the next time I come back from Kalamazoo with 60 books and a busted budget, I’ll have this post to remind me that for one brief, shining moment, I acquainted myself with self-discipline.


Posted by on September 17, 2010 in Books


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2 responses to “Ode to a Book Search

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