Mining the World of Bargain Books
How could you go wrong with John Alcock's An Enthusiasm for Orchids: Sex and Deception in Plant Evolution. Cloth binding, 302 pp. "The male thynnine wasp's extreme sexual urgency is crucial to the reproduction of hammer orchids in the wild, as John Alcock reports in this book. Hammer orchids have co-evolved with the thynnine wasp to produce odors identical to those manufactured by the females, in effect exploiting the male's highly adaptive sense of smell and his enthusiasm for mating. Illustrated with color photographs, this book abounds with clever explanations for how orchids came to be shaped as they are. Each element of an orchid, as quirky as it may seem, is biologically significant, bearing the imprint of natural selection." Suggested retail $29.95, now available for just under $4.00.
If you prefer art books, try this one from Abrams:
Seth, Mira, Indian Painting the Great Mural Tradition. Cloth binding, 464 pp. "Illustrated with 355 color plates, this massive study of the mural painting tradition in India provides an in-depth analysis of the connections not only between different schools of painting but also the sister arts of sculpture and architecture, and puts each work in its political and geographical context. Mira Seth, the world's leading scholar on classical Indian wall painting, has personally visited all of the major sites featured in this book, from the temples of South India through the Deccan plateau—where the Ajanta and Ellora caves are located—to Rajasthan and the Jammu and Kashmir region in the north." Originally $75.00, now $15.00.
Or Jacobsen, Robert, Imperial Silks: Ch'ing Dynasty Textiles in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2 volumes in slipcase. "This gorgeously produced two-volume catalog presents the Ch'ing (Qing) dynasty imperial textiles and costumes from the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, considered one of the finest and most comprehensive holdings outside of China. The collection has a rich history—approximately half of it belonged to the San Francisco attorney William E. Colby, who amassed it throughout the opportunistic decades of the 1920s and 1930s. Only a few works from the 592-piece collection have been exhibited over the past six decades; the 1991 exhibit "Imperial Silks of the Ch'ing Dynasty" displayed more of the collection than ever before, and is the foundation of this comprehensive catalogue. Imperial Silks opens with an overview of the archaeological record of silk in China and then divides the museum's collection of Ch'ing dynasty textiles into nine chapters covering 26 basic categories of garments, decorative furnishings, and accessories. Nearly every piece is photographed—many are in color—and about 200 of the primary objects are accompanied by a technical analysis that includes the structure of the fabric, thread counts, and dyes used." Originally $195, now about $50.
Bargain books can be seen in person at major books fairs, such as Book Expo America (BEA); London Book Fair (LBF); Frankfurt Book Fair; Ciana (also in London), and at CIROBE in Chicago. Since many presses participate in the bargain book trade, I would not hesitate to contact a publisher in whom you are interested to see where their bargain books are sold. Lists of attendees at any of these trade shows available on their respective websites, or by query, will be a great starting point to source bargain books.
Renée Magriel Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.