In the centre of the living room inside my childhood home, a heavy 70′s era fake colonial-style coffee table sat on top of a grass green shag rug. It was a behemoth of a thing, all dangerous sharp corners and rock hard, pressboard edges. Its matching end tables were equally large and bevelled, and together, in a small room unsuited for their girth, they formed a perilous minefield on which my energetic little brother cracked his skull at least a thousand times.
On the edge of the coffee table were two square storage cubbies, hidden behind doors that held exactly two books, the sum total of our household library. The first was a biography of Margaret Trudeau that someone inexplicably gave my mother for Christmas one year. The other was a horror novel called “Dead Again.” It’s origins remain unknown. I have always been an avid reader, and growing up, I can recall countless afternoons of desperate boredom that would inevitably lead me to those books. There, I would sit on the shag carpet to read, once again, their back cover summaries, only to return them, disinterested, back to their “book hole.”
Later, in my mid-late teens I got a restaurant job downtown that lead me to discover a house that had been converted into a used bookstore. Inside, the store meandered from room to room, each lined with shelves that were overflowing with books. Some rooms were even fuller still, with boxes scattered on the floor and precarious towers of random books very near toppling over. The place was a chaotic mess, but I fell immediately under its charm and the possibility of treasures to be discovered within.
I returned to the store again and again digging through musty piles for recognizable names and anything else that caught my interest. Inevitably, I brought home a few of those books, and because I had no shelves or furniture in my room, they slowly began to migrate from the floor space underneath my bed and inside my closet, to eventually cover what remained of the floor. Books provided a window into the world beyond the rigid and willful ignorance that occupied my childhood household, neighbourhood, and family. They showed me that there was something more; a different way of living, thinking, seeing, and being. Since then I have dragged a growing, perhaps somewhat alarming number of boxes of books with me from one apartment to the next. In many ways books saved me, and for that reason I have always felt a debt of gratitude to the authors who risked putting their stories and thoughts out there and privileged to have been able to contribute a few of my own.
Thrift Score Booklist
For some time now the thrift stores in Toronto have been having weekly 50% off book days. I started going to the sales because I happened to be passing by one such store on that day. I began sharing pictures on Instagram of the books I bought, as well as others that I have already read or own and happen to like. Now that some time has passed, I thought I would start sharing some of those books here with you. It’s been fun to rediscover books that I love and find new books that I would not have come by had I not happened upon them on thrift store shelves. The books I find are not all related to gardening, food, or preserving, but many are and I will try to stay on topic here with a focus on those and just a few that go beyond.
The Complete Book of Preserving by Marye Camron-Smith, 1976 – This large volume contains lots of interesting and inspiring preserving ideas, although it does suffer from that 70′s and 80′s era penchant for adding food colouring to homemade jelly. Gross. I don’t generally trust older books for canning, but everything else is worth investigating. A recipe for Spiced Tangerines is surprising as they are preserved whole, peel on. I have only done it in syrup with the peels removed. There is even a section on smoking and curing meats, an area of preserving that I have been hesitant to try. It’s my final frontier, but I don’t think this is the book that will convince me otherwise. Still, this is a book worth picking up if you can find it used like I did. I think I paid about $1.50.
Mother to Mother by Sindiwe Magona – I opened the book up to find this inscription from the author. I assume it is a reference to the Anaïs Nin quote (often mentioned by gardeners), “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
I picked up these 3 just last night, so, of course I have not had a chance to read them.
Pulp by Charles Bukowski – I have read many of his books and while I appreciate the adept simplicity of his writing style, I do not appreciate his too often negative depiction of women. Not for everyone.
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke – As previously mentioned, my maternal side is West Indian, and in an effort to learn about and better understand my roots, I’ve made it a personal ambition to read as much Caribbean Literature as possible. This one, by Bajan-Canadian writer Austin Clarke won the 2002 Giller Prize.
Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall – I have to admit it was the compelling title that drew me in, but the description of twenty-something characters living in Toronto prompted me to give it a try.