While I usually pride myself on being able to resist the impulse to buy a book without having planned to do so beforehand, today I had to give in on two occasions.
The first was for the eminently sensible reason that I was faced with a real bargain in the opportunity to pick up a copy of N. Bourbaki's Algebra II : Chapters 4-7 for the princely sum of £8.00; it made no sense to me for it to be available at so low a price, as the volume seemed to be in perfect condition, but I wasn't about to go tell the booksellers otherwise, and quickly snatched the volume from the bargain bin in which it lay, regretting only that other volumes in the series weren't also lying there just waiting for me to rescue them. Despite having looked in on many a book sale over the years, this has to count as only the third time I've run across a genuine bargain, with the other two occasions being when I managed to snag a brand-new, two-volume hardback copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary for $40.00, and the other when I picked up a second-hand but pristine copy of the entire unabridged Gulag Archipelago in 3 volumes (again, each in hardback), for all of $15.00. This latest buy wasn't quite as great a bargain, but I can't help feeling a little satisfaction at having spotted a genuinely undervalued item on the market.
The second book I picked up today wasn't a bargain, but so far it looks to have been an excellent choice even so. Having scouted about in vain for any other important tracts being virtually given away, I felt a sudden craving for some fiction, and so I thought to myself, why not give one of those highbrow Americans like Barth, Vollmann or Gaddis a try? None of the several bookshops I took a look in had anything by the first two on the shelves, but one did have two books by Gaddis, JR and The Recognitions. Now came the moment of decision: how to chose between either of these two massive tomes? On the one hand, JR had a premise that seemed zany enough and covered a field close enough to my background to be of real interest, while on the other hand, the topic of art forgery promised to give scope to lots of excursions into historical and aesthetic material. In the end, I made my choice not through some feat of complicted reasoning but on a triviality: only The Recognitions had a copy in stock that wasn't in the least soiled; hey, a triviality's as good a method of laying Buridan's ass to rest as any other. In any case, from what little I've read of the book as yet, I made a pretty good decision, and I'm currently feeling very pleased with myself for having scored 2/2 in my little book-buying excursion.