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Opinion | Why scavenging is the ultimate way to finding books during COVID-19

Opinion | Why scavenging is the ultimate way to finding books during COVID-19
on Apr 28, 2021
Opinion | Why scavenging is the ultimate way to finding books during COVID-19
There is a bonding relationship between the physical copy of a book and its unexpected in-person find that the internet cannot replicate. With many local bookstores closed for in-person browsing, and the Iowa City Public Library offering only 15 minutes for it, scavenging has become one of the only ways to find books downtown. Scavenging for me is walking down Gilbert Street and searching through the town’s thrift stores, such as Goodwill, Houseworks, Salvation Army, and The Crowded Closet. That’s how I came across Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki, on a dusty shelf at the heart of Houseworks, sitting next to a Minecraft construction handbook. It’s also how I found A Silent Cry, by Kenzaburo Oe, at The Crowded Closet for $1, and still didn’t buy it because I was already reading Soseki. But then I realized Japanese literature was all over the city, and I wanted to dive in more. With thrifting, we find treasures in what others once held valuable and now deem as trash. That’s why I cherish the books at thrift stores than what books found at a new bookstore. We revalue the copies that others deemed unworthy, and they become of value to us. Great books are also hidden in plain sight downtown. Banana Yoshimoto, author of 90s bestseller Kitchen, and Yasunari Kawabata, the first Japanese person to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, sit unattended at the trolley outside Iowa Books. And the Haunted Bookshop yard sale offers paperbacks for 50 cents and hardbacks for $1, where the covers of English classics bend under the sun, as if defeated by the overwhelming etymology of Japan’s own name “the origin of the sun.” Nialle Sylvan, owner of the Haunted Bookshop, said that, the store doesn’t worry about the extinction of physical copies of books, even though the pandemic has decimated sales of them. “Books will never be replaced by their online version,” Sylvan said. “We’re not worried about it.” Stopping by the wooden crates around the city can also offer the sense of treasure hunt. Outside New Pioneer Food Co-op, and next to the Trinity Episcopal Church, I found the first volume of an illustrated guide of North America’s birds, and one of my favorite finds so far, You Know You Are a Lutheran If, a book that lists endless reasons in case doubt takes you over. To scavenge books is to accept the reading experience is composed of constant interruptions. These books become tokens of our thrifting abilities because, at the end of the day, it’s the sense of a treasure hunt that drives us to thrift, not the lack of unread books on our shelves (in Japanese, the word tsundoku means the acquisition of all kinds of reading materials but letting them pile up in the home without reading them) but the vanishing excitement of acquiring things for one-eighth of its price. In the future, when bookstores reopen, and in-person browsing at libraries ceases to be restricted, we will look back at the books we scavenged and think of them, not in terms of their content, but what they meant in a time like this. There will be a story attached to them. And, although finding books in common scenarios may be lost now, scavenging bridged the lack of that experience, and it mimicked something that felt gone. Source: dailyiowan 

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