My wife and I needed a personal day today, having spent far too much time in the car this weekend. As is our habit when we have a day off, we got breakfast together and then went to our local used bookstore, 2nd and Charles.

It's owned by Books-A-Million, but is far more interesting. It's a combination of new and used books, movies, music, comics, and general nerd/pop-culture doodads. It is amazing, and is one of my favorite places to wander. Plus, since a great deal of its books are used, it's something I can afford to do more often. For example, I walked out of there with 8 books today, and only spent $50. That much at Barnes & Noble might have gotten me 3, if I was careful.

Now, on to the haul.

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. This is the sequel to The Sparrow, which I read some years ago. The first book's premise is that, in the near future, we discover alien life in Alpha Centuri. The first expedition to meet up with them is undertaken by the Jesuits, and it all goes horribly wrong. Basically "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions", the novel. Children of God follows up with the main character of The Sparrow several months after his return.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuro Ishiguro. I've heard that, at least to a degree, knowing the background of the plot will spoil some of it. So all I know is that it's supposed to be amazing but a downer.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. I don't actually know much about this one, either, but what little I've read of the setting seemed interesting. I was more interested due to the praise (it was a finalist for the Hugo Award last year), and also because I had enjoyed the author's blog in the past (she's a professor of Reinassace history as well).

Under the Skin by Michel Faber. This was made into a small-ish movie starring Scarlett Johannson. I found the movie to be eerie and otherworldly in the best possible way, and so I hope the book is equally good.

Foucould's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I've had this book on my to-read list for years, and I finally remembered this fact when I was in a bookstore.

The Sorceror's House by Gene Wolfe. The Book of the New Sun is in my top-10 books of all time, so I'm always eager to try something else Wolfe has written.

A book of drawing prompts. I've lately gotten out of the habit of drawing, which sucks because I felt like I was making actual progress in my skill level for the first time in years. I'm hoping this will help me get back to it.

And the find that I am probably most excited about:

The Holy Qu-ran. There are numerous editions and translations out there. I've read some of A. J. Arberry's translation, but since I'm stuck (for now) with translations, I always like to find multiple versions to compare.

And I really lucked out with this one. It's the "official" edition published in Saudi Arabia, at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran. But not only that, this particular one was published in 1990, which means it uses an updated version of Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation. This version is supposed to be a good rendition, and it also includes commentary.

This matters in particular because, regrettably, Saudi Arabia started using the Hilali-Khan translation in 1993, which has been criticized as being heavily Wahhabist (and thus overly conservative, prejudiced, and too supportive of violence) as well as a bad translation from a linguistic perspective. I have heard some criticism of the Yusuf Ali translation as being anti-Semitic in its commentary, so that's something I'll have to watch out for (assuming that's still present). Apparently too the King Fahd Complex's editors made some changes to put it back more into orthodoxy, which is a pity as the original apparently had some Sufi leanings, which is a tradition I resonate with a great deal.

The other reason that I'm super excited about this find is that this version is dual-language! I find Arabic beautiful just from an aesthetic standpoint (both as written and spoken), and Qu'rannic Arabic is next on my list of languages once I finish with Coptic. This version has both, which means I'll have a ready resource once I get there, to supplement the online versions (which thankfully are myriad and offer multiple translations in parallel).

This version is lovely in terms of aesthetics, and given its provenance I like wondering about its journey. I admit I was a little surprised that someone would sell it to some random bookstore, but maybe it was purchased for a class or something. Still, the image of a holy book sitting so unobtrusively on a shelf, having been given up, is a poweful one.


This was fun.

Scroll down for a tour of hubski bookshelves (circa 2013)

posted by johnnyFive: 141 days ago