Two Books I Bought This Week…and Two I Did Not!

I bought two new books this past week…and there were two books I did not buy. The recent book by the “Tiger Mom,” Amy Chua caught my attention by way of a radio interview discussing her latest book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. Co-authored by Jed Rubenfeld, the book tackles the dicey task of explaining the roots of success – in school, in business, and in life.

IMG_2243What does motivate individuals to strive for excellence and “success” (that word requiring some thoughtful definition)? The varying degree of dedication to school, work, and ultimate success exhibited by us humans has always fascinated me. I tackled that fundamental issue in my newly published guide book for parents on science/math education, Nurturing Curiosity and Success in Science, Math, and Learning (click to see). Why do some children come to school ready, willing, and able to learn while others are often inattentive, distracted, disruptive, or bored? Hint: The answer has much more to do with parental attitudes and influence at home than with the students’ schools or teachers.

The Triple Package and my own book have much in common, it appears. Its authors have identified three key characteristics which fuel motivation and generally lead to “success.” They are as follows:

-Superiority: A deep-seated belief in an individual’s or group’s own exceptionality. That implies an ability to recognize and value “excellence.”

-Insecurity: A sense of vulnerability, rooted in the need to prove oneself and one’s presumed exceptionality.

-Impulse control: The strict self-discipline necessary to “do what it takes” in order to succeed.

In my book, I write about the roles of excellence, student self-esteem, the hunger to learn, and the fear of failure as important aspects of a mature student attitude toward school, learning, and life. Apparently the authors of The Triple Package and I have a similar vantage point and are viewing the same landscape!

 The Other Book I Bought This Week

IMG_2248Yes, we went to the International Antiquarian Bookfair this past weekend which was held at the City Center Marriott in Oakland, California – just across the bay from San Fransicco. We have been before and consider the fair an excellent opportunity to acquire historical perspective on life and living through the many books and other printed materials which are offered for sale…but are way beyond our budget. This is one of the premier book shows in the world, with items from over 200 international exhibitors, priced from ten dollars up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Linda and I each bought a book – both in the close-to-ten-dollar category! My book was a nicely-bound 1897 volume on the history of Florence, Italy. Linda’s choice was a very inexpensive children’s book with cute and unusual illustrations.

Including the time dedicated to our two modest purchases, we spent two days immersed in a sea of some of the most important books ever published. Here are two books that I did NOT buy!


The above is the first printed book depicting the heavenly constellations  – Venice, 1482. I was blown away by the creamy/white, heavy rag paper and the deep black ink impressions – an early printing masterpiece….priced accordingly, at $45,000. I decided to pass on this one (LOL)!


IMG_2214Here is the other book I did not buy and one of the most important natural science books ever published –Vesalius’s study of the human anatomy, 1543. This was by far the most accurate anatomical book of its time, based on human dissections performed by Andreas Vesalius, the author, himself. This large book, whose copious and intricate illustrations were printed using carved woodblocks, is a classic in the rare book field.

This book was priced at $350,000 because it is rare, it is beautiful and it is very important. Walking around the fair perusing books of this stature, one comes to appreciate our human history and heritage. I recall the excitement at this fair years ago when a first edition of Copernicus’s milestone 1543 book espousing a sun-centered “universe” was displayed at $358,000 – a very high price… at that time, but not anymore. The fair is not all about science and non-fiction, to be sure. Another notable and expensive book for sale, here, was a Shakespeare third folio of his original plays from the seventeenth century. The first folio (edition) was printed in 1625 and is prohibitively expensive. I’ve seen a few in past appearances of this bookfair.


Besides Perusing Great Books, We had Fun Watching People!

It was nice to get away for an “overnight” at the Marriott. When we arrived at the hotel early Friday afternoon, we figured on eating a lunch that Linda had packed from home before going downstairs to the fair which opened at 3:00. We had a great room on the eighth floor with a distant view of the Oakland Bay Bridge and the tall cranes of the Port of Oakland, but the most interesting view during our lunch was of a small parking lot on the street directly below which serviced a Smart and Final Market.

We had some great laughs watching the parade of humanity in their assorted vehicles milling around that little parking lot looking for a newly-vacated parking space and trying to get there before someone else came around the corner. Most of the time, the action was continuous with “this way” arrows being ignored and entrances used as exits, etc. At one point two cars came around a corner and stopped face to face. The one driver who was positioning himself to back into a space just behind him hurriedly threw his car into reverse and proceeded to turn his left-front fender into the rear end of a car parked to his side. After a VERY rude bump, the driver backed into his space, got out and did not even check his car for damage. As he walked past the rear of the victimized vehicle and toward the market, he gave a cursory glance to the rear-end and proceeded on into the market, apparently unconcerned. He must have done some damage to that car!

 Like a Scene from Hitchcock’s Movie, Rear Window!


We felt like Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelley watching nefarious goings-on through their apartment rear window. Lots of entertainment and laughs, here – free of charge! It is amazing what perspectives on the world and human nature one can gain even from a vantage point only eight stories high. Imagine what it must look like down here from heaven….I hope we all find out!

4 thoughts on “Two Books I Bought This Week…and Two I Did Not!

  1. What a wonderful trip. We’re going to be excited to see both of your books and loved hearing about all that you saw….including people/car watching!

  2. Oh, that sounds like such fun … one of these years I will have to go to the book fair too! What a thrill to be in the presence of such beautiful and influential books.

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