My wife and I celebrated New Year’s Eve in New York City, and a trip to Manhattan invariably means a trip the The Strand bookstore on 12th and Broadway. Boasting more than 18 miles of books, The Strand is the place I hit to find things I can’t get anywhere else: hardcover first editions of my favorite authors, obscure titles both in and long out of print, half-price hardcovers of new books. I’ve never walked out of there disappointed. And this latest trip was a bonanza!
(Click on any of the listed titles to get a copy of your own.)
Rating way high on the “neat book” scale is this hardcover first of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home, complete with original slipcase and accompanying cassette. The cassette features songs and poetry of the Kesh peoples showcased in the novel—a far future, post-apocalyptic civilization in northern California.
Le Guin has always been one of my favorites, and this is now the best (read “most valuable”) edition of any of her works that I own. Until, of course, I find hard firsts of the original Earthsea trilogy!
Also a terrific find for me is another hardcover first of WLT: A Radio Romance by Garrison Keillor. WLT is my favorite Keillor book by far, chronicling the rise of a Midwestern radio station from the dawn of radio to the present. I’m happy to supplement my old trade paperback copy with this original edition.
But the real goldmine was for one of my favorite authors, Tom De Haven. De Haven has appeared regularly on my Best Reads lists over the years, but his work is mainly out of print and woefully hard to find. So imagine how stoked I was to discover not one, but four hardcover firsts! The books are a testament to De Haven’s dynamic writing talent.
First up is Joe Gosh, a YA novel about an ordinary “joe” who gets superpowers. This is De Haven’s entry in what is apparently the Millennium series for young readers, dealing with a host of genre themes. The exploration of superpowers is a good fit for De Haven, as he proved in his 2005 novel It’s Superman!, which is a real-world re-imagining of Clark Kent’s evolution into the Man of Steel.
Next up is the mainstream story collection Sunburn Lake, which De Haven classifies as a trilogy. I can only hope it’s as great as his novel trilogy chronicling the evolution of American comics, Funny Papers, Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies and Dugan Under Ground.
And that leads us to De Haven’s more traditional fantasy trilogy, Chronicles of the King’s Tramp, of which I snagged hardcover firsts of the first two: Walker of Worlds and The End-Of-Everything Man. I already bought a crappy paperback copy of Walker of Worlds more than a year ago at a bookstore in Colorado. Like I said, you snap up De Haven’s books when you find them. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to have a better copy of not only Walker, but its sequel. All I need now is The Last Human and I’m set.
Rounding out the list a cheap paperback edition of Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, which is in great condition. After years of being burned by terrible Fantasy tomes, I have a strict paperback-only policy when starting a new series. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Hobb. Let’s hope the work proves worthy of future hardcover pursuits!