odds and ends: goodbye borders

Our local Borders closes its’ doors for the last time today. I wanted to note the store’s passing for a couple of reasons.

I don’t think I can stress how much Borders helped my classroom in the past year. During their recent promotion/partnership with DonorsChoose, I was able to get over $3,000 dollars worth of funding out of the store thanks to their “make a purchase, get a $15 dollar DonorsChoose gift certificate” promotion. I expanded my classroom’s lending library to an insane degree and was able to purchase an iPad for classroom use. This promotion was HUGE for my students and although I’ve said it here in the past, I suppose it bears repeating. Thanks for that, Borders.

Secondly… and this is a purely selfish concern: of all the big box chain bookstores that are out there, our local Borders has always been the store where I did my book shopping. I’ve had my issues with the place, I won’t lie. It always seem absolutely insane to me that Borders expanded itself so crazily into CDs and DVDs. The company didn’t even have a website for books until around two years ago. Those are strange business practices. I’ve also had run-ins with surly employees. Our local store had one clerk in particular who never failed in making me want to leap over the counter and throttle him.

By and large however, our local Borders was the most comfortable bookstore with the best selection. I will miss being able to rummage through their wares. Most of my book shopping, both for my personal collection and my classroom lending library, comes from secondhand stores and Half Price Books… but Borders, I’ll miss you.


…and yes, before you ask, despite my sadness, I did make a couple of purchases at Borders before it closed. I sort of hate myself for it.

The real find was The Family Circus Library, Vol. 2. As long time readers know, I have weird affinity for The Family Circus, made all the more tangible by a series of Thrift Store Finds I wrote last year about Bil Keane. These posts continue to be some of the most visited and sought-out content on this blog (if all these “Page Viewed” widgets that WordPress provides me are to be believed). I was given Vol.1 as a gift last Christmas and was excited to get Vol. 2 at such a low price.

I don’t know that The Family Circus rates such a luxurious presentation but the books are chokablok with interesting historical facts and details about Keene and family. Volume 2 seems to begin Daddy Keane’s slow descent into pumping the circular family full of good ol’ Catholic values, so in that instance, I found the collection to be interesting.

List Price: $39.99… Borders’ closeout price: $12 bucks.

X-ed Out is a weird book that Borders seem to bet on heavily. Our store easily had like 50 copies still in stock the last time I checked, which is quite a few for an esoteric art comic about alienation and suffering at the end of the world. Strange, eerie, and beautiful are how I’d describe Charles Burns’ comic. I’m not sure I could tell you the story of X’ed Out in a straightforward way but aesthetically and artistically, I’m glad I picked this up.

List Price: $19.99… Borders’ closeout price: $4 bucks.

I’ve enjoyed Julia Wertz‘ autobiographical comics for years now (in truth, she’s one of the few cartoonists to whom I’ve ever written a fan letter/e-mail) but I didn’t realize she had a book collecting her Fart Party strips until I came across Drinking at the Movies. A collection of musings and misadventures taking place in and around Wertz’ first few years living in Brooklyn, she has a candid, funny way of writing about her life. I wish there was a bit more of a narrative thread to the book, but that’s quibbling.  I suppose I should also mention finding this book on closeout is a bit of a downer, especially in light of Wertz being dropped by her publisher. I swear I would have bought the book at full price if I had known it existed!

List Price: $15.00, Borders’ closeout price: $2.80.

A beautifully presented biography, I haven’t had a chance to really get into Al Jaffee’s Mad Life yet. As a lifelong fan of MAD Magazine, I’ve spent many a month pouring over Jaffee’s fold-in features (whereby folding the back cover of your magazine a specific way will yield an extra joke). Mary Lou Weisman relates Jaffee’s childhood, being uprooted to Lithuania for his formative years… and Jaffee provides ample illustration. Like I said, I didn’t get to read this one yet, but I’m excited to.

List Price: $27.99, Borders’ closeout price: I think I paid like $5 dollars for this one. I’m not sure.

…I also picked up the new Paul Auster novel and comedian Mike Birbiglia‘s memoir for $4 dollars apiece. Ditto Diane Ravitch’s book about schools, of which I hear good things. Most of these are books my local library does not have- the Auster novel in particular, is one I’ve been dying to read but haven’t had a chance.

Hey, I want to be clear: I’m not bragging when I point out what I paid for these books.  Occasionally I know the Thrift Store Finds read like someone overly impressed with himself for finding old Avengers comic bookss or a neat church lectern for dirt-cheap prices.

As someone who loves and values books, seeing them sold for so little by a bookstore that overextended itself like crazy is kind of a tragedy.


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