Death: a reason to buy books, I suppose

A week ago I was having coffee with my friend Claudia when we saw this big black thing go flying by outside the window. When I realized that it was a car, and that the car had rolled several times, I froze for a second. How does a car roll on a four-lane city street with a 30 mph speed limit? Then I remembered that I’ve had CPR half a dozen times and ran outside. Turns out, there wasn’t much I could do but keep the other people who ran up calm. The man inside the car was dead; he’d had a heart attack while driving, and his car careened into the other lanes, hitting four others. Everyone else was fine.

But death does something funny to a person, like make them think limits and reason aren’t always necessary. Not on such a day. I ended up going to a used bookstore with my husband and spending over $70 on books I’m sure I don’t need but wanted to hold.

  • Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair (fiction)
    • “…Stevie is a bookworm, yet she longs to fit in with the cool crowd. Fighting her mother every step of the way, she begins to experiment with talkin’ trash, ‘kicking butt,’ and boys. With the assassination of Dr. King she gains a new political awareness”
  • The Black Muslims in America by C. Eric Lincoln (dissertation)
    • Lincoln’s dissertation about Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, published while Malcolm X was alive.
  • Chick-Lit: Postfeminist Fiction eds Cris Mazza and Jeffrey DeShell (critical essays)
    • Mazza was the one who coined the term “chick lit,” though it’s since been twisted to mean light fluffy reads for women.


  • In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (fiction)
    • Ware compared her book to the 1996 movie Scream on NPR, stating if only people closed their blinds, the terror would stop!
  • Death at an Early Age by Jonathan Kozol (social sciences/memoir)
    • Kozol is a famous writer and activist who works for equal education for minority children, this time Black children in Boston.
  • The Street by Ann Petry (fiction)
    • A single mother raises her son in 1940s Harlem


  • Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters collected/ed by Carla Kaplan (letters/memoir)
    • Zora in her own words!! Her autobiography was famously squiffy in an effort to keep her patrons happy. What will be in these letters??
  • The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts (fiction)
    • A man opens a care alongside a busy highway but loses customers when the highway traffic dries up. A Crow woman enters the picture and everything changes.
  • Banjo by Claude McKay (fiction)
    • Slavery doesn’t have anything to do with music, argues Lincoln Agrippa Daily, AKA “Banjo.”


  • Dog People by Cris Mazza (fiction)
    • Six people lose their ability to speak to humans, so they find solace in dogs.
  • Ugly Town by Debra Di Blasi (hybrid fiction)
    • A novel written somewhat like a process to make a movie: script, ads, character treatments, edits, etc.


I’m not sure when I’ll read these books, but having them comforted me and gave me something else to think about for a while that Friday afternoon . . .

Do any of these books strike you as interesting? How often do you shop for used books in stores?


  1. That must have been an awful jolt. Death certainly does make a person stop and think; I’m not surprised that you were affected the way you were…


      • Grab the Lapels, excellent choices on the books. Here’s an update: Coffee Will Make You Black has been optioned for a feature film. The movie starts production in 2019! If you haven’t had an opportunity to read it yet, I highly recommend moving it closer to the top of your list!! Please follow us on FB and Instagram @coffeewillmakeyoublackmovie and twitter @CoffeeWMYBlack. Spread the word! Join our email newsletter at Thanks and happy reading!!


        • Hi Deborah, glad to hear about the film. This post is over a year old; I’ve already read and reviewed both Stevie books. You can find them in the search box on my website and share the reviews on social media or as links on a website if you would like.


  2. What a shocking experience. We somehow never really take account of how the world can change in a single instant. As far as the books go, I really enjoy Ruth Ware’s novels. I normally don’t read thrillers but all three of hers are excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Goodness me: but good on you for running towards not away from.

    I buy used books more than anything else. I have nine charity shops with books on my high street, between 2 and 15 minutes from my house, so it’s hard not to.


  4. Sorry to hear about the scary situation matey but I am glad ye tried to help and that no one else was injured. Anything to feel grateful to be alive after that is good for the soul. Well books are always good for the soul.
    x The Captain


  5. In nearly 50 years on the road I’ve never seen a vehicle roll over. Totally understand though book buying as a reaction. My home is full of second hand books I’ll read ‘one day’. Looking forward to your reviews of the Lincoln and the Zora Neale Hurston, and also to Mazza’s original conception of chick lit.


  6. How horrible for you! Yes, I think sometimes we spend so much time planning for the future we can forget to make the most of the present – well done for seizing the day! Some interesting stuff there, none of which I’ve read, of course. Hope you enjoy them and that they act as a reminder to live for the moment – at least some of the time.


  7. Yikes! That would have been a scary thing to witness. I just had someone close to my family die this past week actually, so death has unfortunately been on my mind a lot too lately.

    I can’t say running to a bookstore would be my first reaction, but I totally understand how one would head in that direction, as books always offer us solace. It sounds like you got a wide range of reads, can’t wait to see your reviews!


  8. It’s always a shock when something like this happens – I have encountered death at work of course, but when I have to do resus or interventions outside work it always leaves me unsettled for several days. I’m glad you weren’t alone and I totally understand book buying as a response!


  9. Goodness, what a scary experience! I’m glad that you are OK. I can totally understand that trip to the book store. Please read Ann Petry’s The Street. It’s in my top reads of this year, and I wish more people would know about it.


    • Since it’s the end of November, I’m not sure I’ll get there by the end of the year, but it would make a good winter break book. We get off almost a month between semesters, and The Street is a longer work.


  10. Sorry about that experience. Death does have a way of making us really think about stuff. I lost a close friend in October and that totally changed me. I live in constant fear of losing people but I have also learned to appreciate those around me and spend more time with them. From your list, Ruth Ware’s book is one I’d really love to read. Reviewers say its her best one yet 🙂


  11. What a scary experience! I’m impressed with the fact that you ran out there instead of choosing that exact time to go to the washroom (probably what I would have done). My husband is good like that, too, in emergency situations. But then after he is shaking.

    I think you made a good call by soothing with books and a movie. And I’d say you did pretty well getting all those books for $70! Used book stores are my favourite – I go quite a lot. (We wouldn’t want them to close down, would we?)

    From your list, Dog People sounds the most intriguing (and it makes me think of Fifteen Dogs which was unique), but most of them sound good!


    • The author of Dog People actually shows dogs, so she’s got a lot of experience with the animal. Most of the books we bought were about $5, but the one about Black Muslims was $12 because it’s harder to find. I was pumped when I saw it!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I can’t imagine having to witness such a thing. Hat’s off to you for being able to keep it together though. There used to be this wonderful little used bookstore in my city that was packed with books. I loved that you could trade in books for credit, but a few years ago it closed. Luckily my library has a used book store attached that I visit every once in a while, hoping to find a diamond in the rough so to speak. I think a little splurging on books once in a while (if you’re financially able) is a good thing. Of course, I’m a little bias.


    • I sometimes wonder what the point of used book stores is when we have the library because we CAN return the books for money to the used book store. For me, it’s more about the books not in the library. All the ones I chose are fairly old!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. What an upsetting thing to happen – funny how traumatic and yet clarifying a moment like that can be. What an interesting and wonderful book haul, sounds like many new ideas and perspectives to consider, maybe just what you need at such a time.


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