Sunday, March 22, 2009

book 'em, steveo

I am doing my best to get the Costco shopping bug out of my system. The closest Costco to the house in Melaque is in Puerto Vallarta -- and it is not a copy of my Salem cornucopia.

I took a brief trip to the warehouse on Friday to stock up on glucosamine (for both the dog and me) and printer ink. While I was there, I also bought a wireless keyboard for my laptop. (I may post something on it later in the week.)

And a book. I cannot resist buying books on these shopping trips -- something I will really miss in Mexico.

This trip added another novel to my reading pile: Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens. I thoroughly enjoyed his first novel: The Dante Club. Erudite. Witty. Almost-literature.

So on the pile it goes to be read in Mexico.

Here is the inventory of my Mexico-bound reading:

  • The Last Dickens -- Matthew Pearl
  • Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish -- Joseph J. Keenan
  • Western Mexico: A Traveller's Treasury -- Tony Burton
  • Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith -- Anne Lamott
  • A Lincoln -- Ronald C. White, Jr.
  • Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- H.W. Brands
  • Deja Reviews: Florence King All Over Again -- Florence King
  • Breakthrough -- Harry Turtledove
  • Blood and Iron -- Harry Turtledove
  • The Center Cannot Hold -- Harry Turtledove
  • The Victorious Opposition -- Harry Turtledove
  • Return Engagement -- Harry Turtledove
  • Drive to the East -- Harry Turtledove
  • The Grapple -- Harry Turtledove
  • In at the Death -- Harry Turtledove

I will also take several of the books that helped me prepare for my trip. I listed them in lamps unto my feet.

That should keep my reading habit satisfied for my first six months in Mexico. But I will need to find a supplier soon after that.

Amazon and Powell's Books will be on my speed dial.


Felipe said...

I have found that large shipments of books can cause problems. I even got taxed on a sizable box once, and books are not supposed to be taxed. I have heard of others having this same problem. Keep the orders small.

The best way to get vitamins here, and the local selection can be pretty lame, is which has very good prices, quality products and quick shipping to Mexico. Their prices are so good that they pretty much offset the additional shipping costs to Mexico.

Anonymous said...

What? No Aztec or anything by Gary Jennings? It's not only excellent reading, it's nearly one thousand pages!..seriously, I must recommend "The Coming Plague" and "Betrayal Of Trust" by Laurie Garret a widely acclaimed and respected writer of non-fiction.
Detroit, Mich.

aighmeigh said...

I had the same inclinations--to stock up before I left--but my travel arrangements made that difficult. I wish I could drive a Uhaul down so I can bring more... I think your drive is going to be a wonderful adventure in and of itself!

You have to be so excited! I remember the happy stomach tumbles that happened each time I realized the date was swiftly approaching! :)

Larry Lambert, Mazatlan said...


A good alternative is to use a mule. We have friends who come down a couple of times a year who have agreed to have our books sent to their US home. The same thing works for large things going north, such as gifts. There has never been a problem, even with all of the military stops along the way.


Tom and Debi said...

You should check out's Kindle.
And USPS offer a book service called an m-bag. Check with USPS on that.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I had to laugh at Larry's reference to "mules". The only way I've ever heard it used is in reference to drug mules. I guess I've worked in el narcotráfico far too long!

For inquiring minds, a drug mule carries drugs for drug dealers, for a fee, from one place to another; usually from Mexico into the United States. A blind mule is one who does so unknowingly. "Hey, do me a favor and take this package to fulano for me?" In this scenario the good samaritan is unaware that the package contains drugs. At least, that's the defense strategy ;-)

So, sorry for laughing but the notion that someone who takes books to a friend in Mexico is also known as a "mule" is a new one for me! Live and learn.


Constantino said...

I usually get Amazon to ship 3 or 4 and have never had a problem in the last 5 or 6 years. We do have a PO box and the only problem has been when the post madam was unable to locate the box, for several days, but it was finally uncovered....
There are more and more books available on the internet. There are a couple of sites that you can download the texts and read them on the laptop, although a tad lame, not the same experience as the dog eared pages.

glorv1 said...

That's a lot of books to read. When are you going to get involved with activities in Melaque if you are always reading. And what about Jiggs, what is he going to do? Lay beside you and read too? lol
Will you listen to me. I am just carrying on and it really is none of my business what you do. lol. Sorry Steve. I got carried away. I do that sometimes. Take care and enjoy your week.

Larry Lambert, Mazatlan said...


It may be a local term used by the gringos in town, somewhat in jest given the direction the merchandise is going. Although, we have a local friend who is an attorney who hates it when his wife uses the term.


Anonymous said...

Like Larry, I use generous mule friends to bring me all kinds of things....books, special food items (I just got a shipment of frozen New Mexico green chile), new computers, a GPS, fishing gear, ladder for my boat, clothing, snorkel mask, etc. I have never had to pay duty on any items.

The only issue is that gratification is a bit delayed... maybe not such a bad thing for someone who was previously into instant gratification. Kathe

Steve Cotton said...

This is what happens when I try to set up a new computer. I lost all internet contact for the day. But this is a great group of comments.

Felipe -- Thanks for the tips. I am never amazed at the gulf between "supposed to" and "is" when taxes are involved.

Francisco -- Duly noted for a future reading list.

Aighmeigh -- I may rue the decision to include the books. With the dog and my brother, I have about enough space left for two suit cases. Well, I can always buy clothes in Mexico.

Larry -- I have already learned about the mule requests. People in Melaque have asked me to bring down several bulky items. I may need to start saying: "no." But I know I will appreciate the favor in return.

Debi -- I looked at Kindle. Almost bought one. But it cannot transfer any of my magazines. So, out it goes.

Alee' -- Strange. That was my first reaction. But the name certainly applies. In my case I am buying sacks of rice and jugs of oil to take south. Thanks for adding the professional twist.

Constantino -- You may have just pushed me over the edge on getting a PO box in Melaque. I had been considering it.

Gloria -- Actually, I should be taking more books to get through the first six months. When I am not working, I can easily go through three or four books a week. I may only have enough for a month. I need to ration a bit.

Kathe -- Something additional to teach us patience.

Felipe said...

A PO box is a no-brainer. It´s dirt cheap and it eliminates one potentially perilous leg of the mail route: The guy on the bicycle or motorbike who tosses your mail over your wall.

Anonymous said...


Hello???? There are tons of books in Spanish in Mexico, not to mention magazines and newspapers.

I credit the second Harry Potter book translated into Spanish with my fluency in written Spanish. It's also where I learned how to use the imperfect subjunctive correctly. Seriously. The first bits will be quite difficult and tiresome, with you looking up about half the words. But if you keep slogging on, I guarantee you that a time will come that the lightbulb goes off and you take a quantum step up in fluency.

While reading, be near a computer connected to the internet, and have this site on your browser:, which is an online English- to various other language dictionary. It also has forums where usage questions are discussed. Looking up words in a paper dictionary is truly too much effort. But doing it electronically is a snap.

Yes, it'll be tiresome at first, but believe me, the rewards are well worth the effort.


Kim G
Boston, Ma
Where the local argot required some translation for this native San Franciscan upon arrival. Frappe? Grinder? Tonic? These words are used very differently on the West Coast.

P.S. Are you planning to start the Melaque chapter of the Harry Turtledove fan club?

Steve Cotton said...

Felipe -- A PO box is first on my list when I have wheels down in Melaque.

Kim -- Of course, you are correct. And I intend to pick up newspapers first to expand my Spanish. Then I will try books. As for a Harry Turtledove fan club, if I set up, it would still be looking for its first member.

Al said...

One comment, two questions:
Florence King is obvious. I would love to observe a conversation between you two.

Q1: With all the Lincoln books out recently, why this one?

Q2: No Flannery O'Connor?

Steve Cotton said...

Al -- The list was not a conscious choice -- in the sense that I made the list and bought the books. The King book came with a magazine subscription renewal -- though I should have bought it on its own. I read several very good reviews of the Lincoln book -- and then saw it at Costco. The Turtledove books, of course, were one of those questionable purchases based on memories of an old NPR program plus a tenuous relation to Mexico.

There are several books I would be taking with me had I truly made a list, including Flannery O'Connor and Patrick O'Brian. There is also an excellent O'Connor biography that I would like to pick up. Maybe those will fit in once I finish this lot.