Finding book gems
Now in my senior years and knowing that a belief in infinite possibilities is no longer realistic, finding a book that speaks to me and my interests is a most pleasurable experience. It is all the more remarkable when I find it in the most unlikely place — National Book Store. Unlikely, because National practically has no books attractive to a bibliophile, or at least hardly any that appeals to my interests. That place is getting to be more and more of an incongruity, a place with an inappropriate name. It has a lot of office and school supplies, and textbooks and reprints and reviewers, but rarely anything worth reading for the sheer joy of learning and relishing the human experience.
The place with good titles is Fully Booked. It has neat shelves full of glossy, colorful and exciting titles, and has always something new to browse, except it doesn’t love browsers, because the store sticks the price tag right on the blurb, which is supposed to be a come-on to readers and customers. The practice ends up irritating me instead.
The real browser’s haven is Booksale, where you are certain to find a gem or two or an armful because the books are so cheap. It’s the exact opposite of National, because in Booksale the books are far more valuable than their prices even if they’re all used books.
The reason I can’t write out National yet, though, is because on separate occasions I found two absolute gems on the fly. I just grabbed them while practically passing through, because I was there for office supplies. Ironically, they are the ones I have read through and could not put down, while many of the ones I get from Fully Booked I just occasionally leaf through.
One is heavily marked by me, which shows that I keep on rereading it. This is “Evolution 2.0” by Perry Marshall, and the other is “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, the creator of Nike.
“Evolution 2.0” is one of those books that can be life-changing, or mind-changing at the very least. Essentially, the author, who is an electrical engineer and computer systems consultant, says there is evolution (or natural selection) but it certainly is not random, that evolution is driven by information and that information can only come from a consciousness, and that there may, after all, be a natural design to life on earth. “DNA is code. All codes whose origin we know are designed.”
“Shoe Dog” is a lighthearted but nonetheless instructive memoir of the founder of one of the world’s leading sports apparel companies. Phil Knight was a college track athlete who has continued to run his entire life. I identify with his persona in many ways, having been on my college cross-country intramurals team and later on finishing several full marathons and now tending to my small trading company. The doggedness of running regularly translates to the most invaluable characteristic of persistence, which often spells the difference between business failure and success.
Even Knight’s management style is something I have observed in my entire life: “Not hands-off. But not hands-on.” His great reluctance for his company to go public but eventually succumbing to the necessity, his being an introvert but having to sell and negotiate — these also confirmed my natural trepidation toward making presentations and attempting to convince people I would otherwise not need to talk to. It is like chipping away at the stone to reveal the David within, to have the idea rule you and just be the instrument of its becoming — and yet being sensitive to the question of ultimate meaning, as when Knight succinctly observed while contemplating the Great Sphinx: “All is vanity, says the Bible. All is now, says Zen. All is dust, says the desert.”
Evolutionary design. Growing a leading worldwide business empire from nothing, just the undefinable urge to do what you love. Maybe that bookstore could still be worthy of its name.
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Roderick “Rex” Toledo is turning 65 in September.
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