This weekend I'm going with a couple of friends on a day-long road trip to shop for some books. I do this about four times a year, and while lately I've been going more for the companionship and the food than for the books (such are my reading tastes that most of the books I am looking for can't be found in most used bookstores), I'm feeling the urge to expand my search to pick up some sci-fi.
This urge came to me only a couple of hours ago. Over the past few days I've been rereading two of my favorite novels, Ken Grimwood's Replay and David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself. It's no coincidence that both are time-travel novels -- time travel is my favorite sci-fi genre, though because it's one of the most difficult to do well the number of good time travel novels are few and far between. But an online search for recommendations came up with a couple of recent titles of which I was unaware (Alan Averill's The Beautiful Land and Patrick Lee's The Breach), so I'll keep my peepers peeled for them.
Used book shopping is by far one of my favorite activities. It helps me to understand in a way the appeal of hunting for some people: the patient stalking of a target, the thrill of discovery, and the satisfaction of having all of that effort paying off with a successful result. It's been a little harder to come by over the past few years, though, as so much book selling has gone online, which has reduced dramatically the number of rare titles and unexpected bargains that I used to be able to find. I don't blame the book sellers for doing this -- and as an online book shopper I freely admit my complicity in it -- but it does sadden me how less frequently I discover the hidden gems, which seemed to occur more often before the Internet marketplace really took off.