I should like to form a new organization, and call it BBA - Book Buyers Anonymous. I have this little problem, you see: I can't seem to enter a bookstore without buying something. Usually lots of something, if you get my drift.
Consider the evidence:
Yesterday I entered a relatively new store in Oslo that sells exclusively paperbacks. They have a fair selection of English-language books there, and these are all offered at a discount - buy four, get the cheapest one for free. The first time I was there, just before Christmas, I left with four books, yesterday I stopped at eight (total price ca $125). I'm almost afraid to go there again for fear I'll have to buy a wheelbarrow first.
In '96 I was on a study trip to London (this was back when I studied English in college). I had been to London before, but I'd never really had the time to do any serious shopping. On this trip however, I found a brilliant store, the store of my wet dreams. Its name has long since escaped my rapidly decaying memory, but it was located in Shaftesbury Avenue, not very far up from Piccadilly Circus. They mainly sold books they'd snapped up for next to nothing from failed bookshops or publishers, or secondhand stuff. They had lots of weird books that not even I would consider buying, but they also had lots of good stuff. There were thick, heavy paperback volumes of poetry, classics, biographies, history, etc in the £1-2 range. They also had some very interesting and very cheap hardbacks, some of them of considerable size. I got a huge, richly illustrated version of "The Anglo Saxon Chronicles" for £15, which was half price.
I had some fellow student help me place it all in my arms, and when I approached the checkout my knees were trembling, my fingers on the point of breaking and I could not see over the top of the pile. Quite possibly I'd soiled myself too. At the airport a few days later, I had to go around and beg those of my fellow students who had any room and weight left to take some of my books. My own suitcase and a whole bag - a rather large one - was already stuffed to breaking point. The bag did in fact break, the whole side was torn up when it arrived in Oslo. I've been to this shop once since, and I bought a fair amount then too, but the last time I was in London I couldn't find it, so I guess they had to close. Or maybe my last purchase there simply enabled them to retire.
I also remember my first trip to the US, back in '97. I had never been to a Barnes & Noble before, and almost wet myself in the American History section. Tons of wonderful stuff you'd be hard pressed to find in Norway, or indeed continental Europe, filled every shelf. I don't remember how many books I got, but I think I forked over something in the vicinity of $5-600. I was panting, sweating, drooling, and mumbling incoherently to myself. My American friends watched me, at first somewhat bemused, then, in rapid succession, concerned, shocked and finally afraid of physical injury. I was, quite simply, a man possessed. Hauling my loot off in several plastic bags that looked about to burst at the slightest provocation, I decided I had to take some drastic measures.
So I bought a suitcase.
Yes, dear reader. I bought a new suitcase just to carry all the books. A cheap suitcase, yes - a discounted suitcase even. But a new suitcase, nonetheless. A couple of weeks later I had to pay British Airways something like $50 in overweight (for the baggage, not myself).
Of course, buying books is not strictly speaking an expense. Rather, I prefer to think of it as an investment.
At least that's what I'll claim until I've got this BBA thing up and running.