This is the first post commissioned via my patreon, so I’d like to thank my good friend Paul Andolina for asking me to write on a subject I might not normally have written on but love to discuss: my quests to find books.
It’s a subject that shouldn’t be outside this blog. It’s after all a key form of how my autism expresses myself. But it’s something I think of as only interesting me. However even if that’s true, why shouldn’t I use my platform to discuss it? Besides, this segues nicely out of my last entry. I love driving. Where do I drive to? Why?
A book quest is a very specific event. A book quest is something I save for for at least a month but usually more. I plan them out, booking a full day per trip. Rarely are these trips within 50 miles. Occasionally I’ll count Hot Springs but that’s gotta be as close as I get. I’m not looking for the familiar. So yeah, it’s either Northwest Arkansas or Memphis for a hunt.
I never start one late in the day unless it’s an overnight like the one in June 2017. It’s 8 AM at the latest. My trip audio was ready the day before. I’m listening to a podcast to warm up, usually the newest 80s All Over. My energy drink should be at hand. To get to my first destination I want a straight shoot. I’ve definitely gassed up the night before.
So it’s a straight, unfiltered drive to clear my head. I’m in a zen state as I take this trip. I want to be as entertained on the way up as I am when I get there. Usually it’s a new energy drink in the can. I drive and I drive. But that was last entry. Let’s get to the quest.
There’s never really any order to where I shop. Usually it’s as I drive along. But there’s a hierarchy. The cream of the crop are of course comic shops and used bookstores. These are the places I expect to find rarities. I’m not looking for Stephen King or the latest trades at these stores. I can get those at home. I don’t care.
What specifically am I looking for at these stores? At used bookstores, I’m looking for old tie-ins. Boulevard Marvel is the top of the top right now. I’m just a few books shy of completing that collection. The Avengers Battle The Earth Wrecker is a dream, but not impossible as I did find the Captain America novel from that era. I’m also always seeking Bantam’s Batman: The Animated Series novels. And the real prize? Horror movie novelizations. They’re all but impossible to find so I grab them when I can.
At the comic shops, it’s always older trades. I’m decidedly disinterested in anything published post 2001 from Marvel unless it’s an Essential volume. Same for DC and their Showcase trades. I want the less glossy paper. I want the odd cover designs. I want stories the big 2 might not come back to soon though if the price is right I’ll take a story that’s gotten the treatment. I’ll also get newer minis bagged together if they’re cheaper. And always I’ll grab older minis bagged together.
My favorite stores? Well for used books, I love Snooper’s Barn in Fort Smith. That’s where I found the Captain America book. Like most in the state I love Dickson Street Book Store. I mean their selection is unbeatable to the point of having no real rivals in the region. Springfield MO has the incredible trifecta of Half Price Books of the Ozarks, Hooked on Books, and ABC Books. They’re all three stunners.
Comics? The great rarity due to limited hours is Time Machine in Fort Smith, which is only open a few days a month and has been shuttered for 6 months. Their selection stuns. I love Rock Bottom Books in Fayetteville beyond words but they’re so very tight in space. I’m in awe of Vintage Stock in Fayetteville and Rogers too.
What about thrift stores? They’re great. They’re also limited. But I hit every one on my trips that I see. I may be in for 5 minutes but they’re worth the five minutes.
Then there’s chain bookstores. Barnes and Noble I don’t usually hit unless I have a new book I need. They also have a weak graphic novel section. Books-A-Million though? I hit every one I see. For one thing they take on used books. They also have an incredible graphic novel selection at every store. Love them. No matter what though, they’re always the last stop.
I have to answer one question that’s inevitably going through people’s minds. Why not just go on eBay? I do use eBay quite a bit. I’ve really gotten the Marvel novels that way. But that’s not the point.
A quest is open. I’m looking for what I don’t know I’m looking for. I want that moment of shock when I find a tie-in I didn’t know existed. I want to find a comic strip book that’s new. I want to dig and search. It’s therapeutic for me. I get to get stimulated in a way I love.
I don’t do these like I used to. I would go freely when I was single and not a father. Now? It’s annual if even that. Lola is an inhibitor. You don’t want a three year old at a used bookstore, though she still goes to the ones here once every few weeks. And that’s fine. It makes them matter more.
The internet can try. But the quest is irreplaceable.
Thanks to Paul and Chris Janisko for supporting me.