Books Acquired Recently: R.J. Julia Edition, and Some Thoughts on the Form

First, let me say that obviously my blog has been taken over by Books Acquired Recently posts in recent weeks. This is partly a manifestation of my book-acquiring addiction and partly a manifestation of the busyness of my first semester teaching at Utica College: I just haven’t had time to write about other subjects. I hope the blog’s subject matter becomes more diverse again during the month-long Winter Break that is fast approaching.

Second, I’ve mentioned this before, but for any new readers out there, the Books Acquired Recently idea is a blatant rip-off of Nick Hornby’s column in The Believer, in which he discusses books that he’s recently read and acquired. I love being a voyeur of other people’s libraries because it is one of the best ways to learn about a person, and thus I enjoy allowing others to view the process of continuing to build my own library. What can I say? I’m a literary exhibitionist.

Third, the recently acquired books themselves: Over the Thanksgiving break I visited some relatives in Connecticut, and they took me to the delightful R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison. The store’s three floors are architecturally pleasing, with inviting nooks for each section and plentiful cushioned chairs for customers who wish to investigate potential purchases without getting in the way of other patrons. The inventory is large, and the staff is friendly (not an easy task on Black Friday).

Baker, Nicholson. Traveling Sprinkler. New York: Blue Rider, 2013.

As regular readers of the blog know, Baker is one of my favorite writers. I didn’t realize he had a new novel out, but found Traveling Sprinkler in the store’s New Fiction section after I had already purchased the other two books and was waiting for everyone else in my party to be ready to leave. Of course I bought it as soon as I noticed it. I’m about a third of the way through the book, and while thus far it is not as good as its prequel, The Anthologist (which I love because it is The Nerdiest Book Ever), it has been smoothly enthralling like nearly all of Baker’s fiction.

Incidentally, Blue Rider also published the hardcover of Dickey’s memoir.

—. The Way the World Works: Essays. 2012. New York: Simon, 2013.

This book has been on my list of “books to buy eventually” since it came out. I enjoy Baker’s nonfiction, but reading it is always somewhat of a disappointment because it just isn’t as good as his fiction (which is not meant as a criticism: the two genres have different purposes, and nonfiction is much less concerned with creating a transcendent experience in the reader than fiction is). In this collection, Baker writes about essential topics such as how reading and writing are changing in the digital age. Everyone should be reading him.

Dickey, R.A., with Wayne Coffey. Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball. New York: Plume, 2013.

I have been meaning to read Dickey’s memoir since it came out just before the 2012 baseball season, and then decided to wait to purchase it until after the paperback came out because I assumed it would have extra material on his phenomenal 2012 year when he won the National League Cy Young Award. The Plume edition does, indeed, have a new chapter. Although I probably will not get around to reading Wherever I Wind Up until the spring when I begin craving baseball again, I decided to purchase it now because R.J. Julia is an independent bookstore well worth supporting.

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