Dear National Bookstore, Booksale, Bestsellers, and all the bookstores I’ve visited:
I’m afraid I won’t be seeing you anymore — which means you won’t be seeing too much of me either. Or at least until next year.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make.
For the past two or three months or so, all I did was to spend time at your branches and chill out.
That includes the time I went to Cebu.
I think I checked out more books than I did Cebuanas, inside and outside the National Bookstore branch on Mango Avenue. As a result, I was able to buy a hardbound copy of Roger Lowenstein’s While America Aged at ninety percent off.
Although it was a steal, I paid dearly for it.
I was unable to hang out with the few but nevertheless pretty Cebuanas I met.
I guess you could say I could take a tip or two from Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect.
Wright appears to have enjoyed more than the company of one female partner, a fictionalized account of which has been written and published by novelist and fictionist T. C. Boyle in a book called The Women.
As it happens, I have a trade paperback edition of the book which I got for P50 at National Bookstore in Shangri-La.
That branch has been particularly good to me.
It was where I found and bought a trade paperback copy of Spanking The Donkey: Dispatches from a Dumb Season without even knowing who Matt Taibbi was.
But at its price — P30 — it was worth the gamble.
This early I can say that the book is one of the best I’ve read this year. Taibbi, who wrote he was the lovechild of Rupert Murdoch and Imelda Marcos, is like an angry P. J. O’ Rourke but with a progressive agenda.
In a piece entitled “On The Campaign Trail, No One Can Hear You Scream,” Taibbi wrote about reporters who worked for large media conglomerates:
“[Jim] Loftus, incidentally, is [US Presidential candidate John] Kerry’s best advertisement for the presidency. He is that rarest of creatures in politics: a political operative with a personality. He reminded me a little of some nightclub owners I’ve known in the Third World — always had a story, never surprised by anything, gets a kick out of it all. You could have an unguarded conversation with him at any time of day, which for a reporter on the  campaign trail is like having an adult who’s always around to buy for you at the liquor store.
“Okay, everyone,” he said, clearing his throat. “Okay. Now, all of us here work for big, evil corporations. We all know that. But not all of us here can really aspire to being big and evil. Some of us really have to content ourselves with being little and evil.”
He gestured to the departing journalist. “And I think that [he named him] here really exemplifies that quality: small, and evil.”
He raised his glass.
“Let’s drink to the small, evil people,” he said.
I raised my beer. Hear, hear.”
If that previous 184-word clip isn’t worth P30, you give too much value to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ favorite currency.
During this same period, at nearby Bestsellers in Robinson’s Galleria, I also struck gold.
I got a hardbound copy of Quirkology by Richard Wiseman for a third of its price.
The book was a page-turner, helping readers how to test a person whether s/he is a good liar or not.
Roughly a week or so later, Bestseller’s charms worked on me again.
I got Taylor Clark’s Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture.
At P150, the trade paperback edition of Starbucked represents the pinnacle of my bookhunting skills.
As of this writing, I’m only on page 28 but I’ve already read enough factoids about coffee and Starbucks. (Did you know that the first two branches of Starbucks were just fifteen yards apart from each other? And that in 1998, waters around the Boston harbor were discovered to contain a significant amount of caffeine? Yes. And that’s only in the introduction.)
But let’s not get carried away and forget Booksale, that book hunter’s mecca.
In its Megamall branch, I once had a conversation about online stock trading with an absolute stranger because of a book he planned to buy.
And we talked about something geeky: which among online stock trading companies in the Philippines provided the best GUI for its customers?
That discussion, however interesting, didn’t get in the way of my goal.
As soon as the conversation ended, I bought a large, trade paperback copy of Martin Amis’ The Pregnant Widow for P160 during the time National Bookstore was selling it at roughly ten times that price.
On another occasion, I bought Inventing The Truth, edited by William Zinsser, who also wrote On Writing Well, one of the better written books on the subject.
Another Booksale branch, this time in Philcoa, has allowed me to buy More Mirth of a Nation for P45.
With this haul — and many more unmentioned finds — what can I say for myself?
I guess I need a break.
Instead of book hunting, meandering between the aisles looking for a discount, I think I should spend more time reading.
At any rate, avoiding bookstores altogether would also prevent me from whittling away at what I laughably call my savings.
So I guess its goodbye for now.
Until next year.
N. B. If I win the lotto, I might just change my mind.