$3 Book Club: Old Books, Old Ideas

I’ve been reading.

If you’ve been reading this blog you may recall that my 2023 plan to dig into some vintage science fiction was something I coined the three buck book club, and was the result of some thrifty used book shopping and a notion that half-a-century old science fiction might be worth a second read.

Or in my case, a first read.

I wasn’t particularly wrong.

And my reading has introduced me to a small stack of novels that (chosen by literal chance and randomness) I would never have encountered in any mainstream way.


But it has also introduced a new problem.

Old books are full of old ideas.

I guess I knew this, but I didn’t think it would punch me in the gut so firmly as it has.

I’m on my second novel of the project and so far I’m two for two on some very misogynistic protagonist characters and a solid one hundred percent for some cringe-worthy bits of colonial-bent racism.

These books are products of their time.

But their time in the past had a few ideas that are probably — certainly — not worth dragging into the present.

Sunlight in Cleansing

Thus, I find my role here a little muddled.

At one end I could turn this into a kind of, to borrow a politically charged idea, “woke witch hunt” against decades-gone authors who had the misfortune to be randomly plucked from used-bookstore obscurity by some guy looking for something cheap to read.

On the other end, I (as a middle-aged Caucasian man in a position of privilege) could articulate that perhaps it isn’t my place to talk and write about that particular aspect of these books and focus on the stories they tell.

And yet…

An yet there is a tangled mess here that isn’t so easy to unravel.

I tend to think that discussion and education are pretty good solvents for bad ideas.

I can’t undo what these folks thought, believed or wrote. I can’t change the fact that uncountable numbers of cornball science fiction books still exist on shelves around the world filled with deeply rooted concepts that today would bin those stories before they made it past an agent. I can’t change any of that.

I can acknowledge it. I can call it out. I can make sure that as I pry open their dusty covers and look for the bits of vintage treasure inside that I also try to make sure everyone understands that there is some rot in there too.

Inevitably someone else is going to find copy of these books, and if they are anything like me google the title and read or watch what comes up. And there on the screen is my article, my video…

What would you want them to know?

the three buck book club

It only makes sense that a guy who cooks on cast iron, spends time in the outdoors and enjoys cooking clean, simple food would also be into vintage books, right?

I decided that I want to read more in 2023.

I want do do a lot of things in 2023, but reading is something that is pretty achievable.

Book. Quiet. Go.

That said, books are getting expensive. (Grumpy old man alert!) For example, I bought myself a few of the Witcher novels for a Black Friday sale and even discounted they still cost me something like $18 each for paperbacks. And while I love the library, I’ve always been something of a slow, scattershot-type reader and tend to need to renew every book two or three times, or I end up returning it and never finishing it. I also got into e-books for a while but have resorted back to the tactile paper novel for things that are not work-related.

So, spend a lot of money on books? Read less? Ugh! What’s a guy to do?

One solution: I was at the local used bookshop on my lunch break the other day. I was hunting for something very specific, but then on a whim started picking out other books that caught my eye…. books that fit a particular set of characteristics:

  1. They were all science fiction
  2. Based on copyright dates, every one of them were written and published before was old enough to really get into reading proper novels, so say mid-80s and prior vintage stuff,
  3. Each of them plot summarized some absolute cheese, camp, cornball, classic sci fi (which is kinda my vibe recently)
  4. None were going to cost me more than $3 per book… used of course

In other words, I had the makings of a 2023 project in my hands, right there at the cash register.

The Three Dollar Book Club was born.

How many of these old campy books from the last century could I read through this year?

Would people be interested in semi-serious reviews of corny old books?

When could I start reading?

What I’m trying to say is that if you’re the kind of person who cooks on cast iron, spends time in the outdoors and enjoys cooking clean, simple food … are you also, maybe into vintage books? Or at least, into reading about a guy who finds himself with a small stack of three dollar used novels from the seventies and eighties?

If so, you might be in the right place. Stay tuned.