A hundred bucks, tops, I told myself. That'll give me a nice selection of tomes and leave enough for music afterward.
Ask me how that plan worked. Go ahead, ask.
NOT TOO GOOOOOD.
Well, actually, not that bad. I escaped after several hours having spent only twice what I'd planned. And I justify the expenditure by recalling that I worked the entirety of the Christmas holiday, and I've been trapped at work with no unpaid time off this week, which leaves a surplus in the budget that'll cover music. Don't ask me how winnowing the music list is going. If you must, see bolded answer above.
Forget music. Let's talk about books. This was a science odyssey, which meant considerable searching through Science Blogs for recommendations, warnings, and so forth. If you're interested, I found a few good lists: the Pop-Sci book meme, favorite volcano books, and Wayne Ranney's Great Geology Books I Have Read (see sidebar). I'm fairly excited to have discovered his blog in the process of seeking science books - I've got his Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau, and it's delicious. I know he knows his shit, so his recommendations have weight.
Here's how I shop for science books these days: I find stuff that looks interesting, then search Science Blogs and Google for the title and/or the author to make sure I'm not wasting money on bullshit. It's not totally foolproof, but it works to some degree. I've avoided a few stinkers since I've started doing that. And I've been tempted to buy the iPhone a few times simply because I'd have that resource at my fingertips when I'm torn in Barnes and Noble or Half-Price Books.
I ended up with some brilliant stuff that I'm terribly excited to get. And here's the list, in no particular order:
The Seven Hills of Rome: A Geological Tour of the Eternal City. I need more geology that deals with areas other than America, and found this. It's written by actual geologists. And it does more than just geology: there's a bit of stuff in there that discusses the human impact on the area, which is awesome.
Devil in the Mountain: A Search for the Origin of the Andes . I mean, here we have a book talking about how the Andes formed. Woot!
Proust Was a Neuroscientist. I wasn't sure about this one, but in my searches on Science Blogs, it came highly recommended. And it's bargain priced. So what the hell, why not?
Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum (Vintage) . I love love love Richard Fortey. And in the blurb for this book, it talks about it having too much information. With Richard, too much is never enough. Mine all mine! I read the first few pages, and along with the science stuff, he has a description of the Natural History Museum's architecture that had me salivating.
The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic Events That Shaped Our Earth (St. Francis). This is a book on Italian geology written by Walter Alvarez. Yes, that Walter Alvarez. It looks fascinating, and again, it's a book with incidental extras.
The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution . Written by biologist Sean Carroll, whose Endless Forms Most Beautiful is an excellent book, so this should be utterly awesome as well.
Biostratigraphy of China. This is going to be a tough read - it's a professional book for professional geologists. But I've been wanting some stuff on Chinese geology, and this has got some of that, along with a lot of other stuff. And it's super-cheap - the thing usually retails for $175, but Amazon's got it for $33. So, why the fuck not? I can Google the big words.
Fossils: The History of Life. Another Richard Fortey book. Need I say more? I didn't think so.
Three Gorges of the Yangzi River: Choncqing to Wuhan (Second Edition) (Odyssey Illustrated Guides) . This one's more of a travel book, but it's got a hefty chapter on geology, and looks like it's got a lot more interesting stuff than just "see this tourist trap, stay at this hotel." And it was bargain priced, so hey, go for it, right? Especially since anything on Chinese geology is incredibly hard to find - unless you're going for professional manuals.
Mountain Geomorphology (Arnold Publication). I have no real idea what this is, but it's geology and it's about mountains and it's written by professionals, so that's enough for me. We're learning geomorphology, kiddies!
The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition--with a new Introduction by the Author . I've been meaning to read Dawkins's first book for quite some time. I believe now is a good time.
And that's just the stuff I bought. There's a bunch more on my wish list waiting for paperback editions and so forth, because I had to stop somewhere. Eventually, I'll be picking up The Age of Wonder, Fire Mountains of the West, Before the Deluge (nothing to do with Noah - we're talking about the Three Gorges Dam in China), and Why Evolution is True (yes, I'm a bad Jerry Coyne fan - haven't picked this up yet, and now I'm waiting for the paperback). At some point, I have to go on an astronomy spree, because there are books by Phil Plait and Neil DeGrasse Tyson I want. Brian Switek's first book, Written in Stone, isn't too long in coming, and I've been waiting too long for this book to wait one second longer than absolutely necessary.
In the meantime, I'm sure there'll be about twelve billion books emerge that I didn't know existed but desperately need to own. That's just how it is round here.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm starving to death. Didn't eat whilst shopping. Too involved with the books.