High Fidelitied

I spent some time at @bookmansflag on Sunday, relaxing with a coffee and some browsing of the shelves. On a whim I picked up volume 7 of the Walking Dead and took it to the counter with a couple of other books. What followed was a scene that combines the best of High Fidelity, Clerks and the Comic Book Guy, but with just the enthusiasm for stuff they like and none of the judgmental bits. It made me laugh, and it made me happy.

Dude cashier 1: (holding up the book) Are you … reading the … Whole thing?

Me, casually: No, I mean, I just thought I’d pick it up. 

Dude cashiers 1 and 2 together, ahgast: Duuuude. You have to start at the beginning. 

2: Seriously, it’s SO GOOD

1: Sooo GOOD, dude. (Fanning through the pages, showing some to #2) See, it’s the one…

2: That ends with the…

1: The this…?

1 and 2, looking at the final page: Ooooooh, d00000d!

2: You can not read this. Not YET

I left with the book and guidance on how to pick up the first several volumes, and I promised that I would not, under any circumstances, read ahead, entirely happy with this chance encounter with enthusiastic fans of their store’s product. Thanks, guys! 

Books noted

Via Savage Minds comes a link to the University of Minnessota Press social science sale. There’s a pretty good set of social movements-related stuff there; I might pick myself up a copy of David Myer’s and colleagues’ Routing the Opposition: Social Movements, Public Policy, and Democracy. Marieke de Goede’s Virtue, Fortune, and Faith also looks like an interesting read.


One doesn’t normally think of sociology graduate students as a particularly physical bunch, but the student book giveaway at the tail end of the ASA meetings this week would put the lie to that notion. The graduate school process having stripped us of our shame, we lined up for an hour with our ticket to the giveaway, hoping to make a good find. Although it didn’t rise to the level of violence as last week’s $50 iBook sale, when they opened the doors to that ballroom all hell broke loose.

There was pushing and shoving, flying elbows, people forcing their way into the mob and scooping up armloads of books the titles of which they didn’t even see. If knowledge is fetishised, free knowledge must be even better, no matter what the subject. Someone who called me sir and apologized quite sincerely used my shoulder as leverage to get himself close enough to scoop up a copy of Normal Accidents.

After the chaos, when all that’s left on the long banquet tables are duplicate copies of journals nobody has heard of, the secondary market starts up. Students sit cross-legged on the floor sifting through the piles that they and their friends acculumated. Like vultures, the rest of us hover nearby: Is she going to keep that one? Damn. That one? Score!

I came away with just one title (which is all the better, really; less to lug home), Paul Seabright’s The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life. It’s all about how cooperation naturally evolves as a product of market forces. I wonder if the book giveaway melee would give Seabright pause.

Book it

Chad tagged me with another meme and so I must, by Common Blog Law, comply. This one’s about books, so it should be interesting.

Books at the two ends and middle of my bookshelf

Well, which bookshelf? How about the closest one: At one end is China Mieville’s Iron Council, waiting for me to take it on the road to California in a couple of weeks. In the middle is The LaTeX Companion, for ready reference. And at the other end is Max Weber’s `Economy and Society’: a critical companion, edited by Charles Camic, Philip Gorski, and David Trubek; I’ll have more to say about this one later on. It’s really excellent.

Reading in the bathroom

Never gone in for that. Maybe the back of contact lens solution.

Favorite authors

Geeze. I suppose these come and go over time. Edward Abbey should be on the list; some of my favorite all-time science fiction is by A. A. Attanasio and David Wingrove, though I also look forward to Neil Gaiman; Barry Lopez? Wendell Berry? Berkeley Breathed?

Least favorite

L. Ron Hubbard? When I was a kid I actually read a couple of books in some ten-volume sci-fi epic of his, until I reached the point where a little voice in my uncritical reading mind said, “This stuff really sucks. And there are eight more volumes?” I recently made my way through bits and pieces of Aaron Ralston’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place—remember, the guy who cut off his forearm in a southern Utah slot canyon? His story is remarkable, but the book is dreadful. Finally, quite unlike Chad, I just can’t get behind John Krakauer: Somehow, every story he tells becomes about him, and that annoys me. His story of Everest in 1996 became about his grief and eventual getting high to deal with it; his Into the Wild became all about his failed attempt to make a difficult first ascent, after which he went and got high; and while I have a lot of interest in the story recounted in Under the Banner of Heaven, I got bored about 50 pages in and put it aside, before Krakauer even got high.


The above?

Picking up ladies in the bookstore?

I gave my wife a ride to the library a few times. I think that counts.

Eating while reading

I can’t hold the pages open with a hoagie in one hand.


Any volume of The American Alpine Journal has inspiration aplenty.

Beach book

I’m in grad school, so I take Weber to the beach. But for lighter moments I’ll recommend Snow Crash. You really can’t go wrong.

Judging books by their cover

Any book that prominently features dragons or space marines on the cover is probably right out. Sorry, Anne McCaffrey.

Favorite section in the bookstore

Book-store. That’s where the people at Amazon go to pick up my books before they mail them to me, right? Lately I’ve been looking for a really good guide to flyfishing Northern Arizona, so I suppose I check out the outdoors section a lot these days.

Passing the baton

I’m going to pass this baton to the first five people who come along. This just might work (but I’m prepared for the possibility that it will fail spectacularly). If there aren’t yet five responses in the comments, put together your own and post your link.

About, the short version

I’m a sociologist-errant. This site is powered by Textpattern, Pair Networks and the sociological imagination. For more about me and this site, see the long version.

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