Chasing New and Unusual Things

For those of you who have been following me for a while, you may recall that a few years ago I undertook a project called 52 New Things.

My concern was that in my retirement, I would become lazy and unmotivated, and the weeks would drift away from me without accomplishing anything.  The goal-oriented part of me couldn’t abide the idea that I could reach the end of the year with nothing to show for it.

Hence 52 New Things was born.  The goal was to ensure I was constantly stimulating my curiosity and enthusiasm for exploring, discovering, and learning new things – especially if it pushed me outside of my comfort zone.  That first year – 2015 – ended in success as I completed 85 new things.

I enjoyed the process so much, I’ve been doing it every year since then. I don’t always write about the things I do, except usually in the form of a post for Thursday Doors, or Changing Seasons.  With the attention span of a 5-year-old, I’m often focusing on the next new shiny thing before I ever get around to writing about the last one.

So this is really just a long introduction to a ‘shiny new thing’ I heard about several months ago and completely forgot to put on my New Things List as something I wanted to follow-up.  My memory was tweaked this week by Karen at Profound Journey when she mentioned excursions into the city to visit book stores and art shops.

I had heard about this antique book store that had developed a novel idea – a vending machine that dispensed old books.  For a mere $2 (now $3), the machine – dubbed the Biblio-Mat – would release a random book to the buyer.

This sounded exactly like something I would want to check out for myself!

Monkey's Paw

So, as I am sometimes inclined to do, I planned an excursion in extreme haste across the city to see what the Universe, via the Biblio-Mat, would deliver to me in the form of a book.

The name of the bookshop is The Monkey’s Paw – a nod to the 1902 story of the classic tale of 3 wishes and the unintended consequences that usually result.  It seemed appropriate considering I was about to ask the Universe for a random book.  Thankfully, the stacks were very low.

Monkey's Paw4

I learned from the owner, Stephen, that the vending machine had been his idea and was developed by a friend of his.  It has become so popular, he said it’s practically a full-time job now just to source appropriate books for the Biblio-Mat.

The machine is capable of holding about 90 books, but it tends to operate best at only 25 books.

Monkey's Paw2

The books he buys for his store are not what you would find on the best seller list, and according to his website, there is nothing published after 1980.

There is a general feeling of seriousness and dignity when you enter his shop that isn’t evident in the big box stores.  I felt like a literary fraud as I perused the shelves.

Monkey's Paw5

However, the important question to answer now is – what did the Biblio-Mat dispense for my reading pleasure?

The first book was The Yellow House by E. Phillips Oppenheim.  The page with the publication date was missing, but according to Goodreads, this piece of fiction about 2 sisters was published in 1912.

The second book was Clerk of Penicuik’s Memoirs 1676-1755.  Published in 1892, it is the memoir of Sir John Clerk, Baron of the Exchequer.  According to Wikipedia, Sir John Clerk was a Scottish politician, lawyer, judge and composer.  I doubt the pages will be filled with comedy.

Monkey's Paw3

So now these slightly dusty smelling books with their yellowing pages are part of my outstanding reading list.

Life is an adventure – even if sometimes it’s only in the form of an old and unusual book randomly dispensed from a vending machine.

 

 

95 comments

  1. It is April and I believe in New beginnings! The idea of a book dispenser of unseen,older books is a fantastic one, Joanne.
    I think this should be placed in many independent book stores. . . I like free book library boxes, have posted of two local ones. (After all, the book boxes have a door! 😊 ) Smiles, Robin

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  2. I’ve made note of that bookstore in case I ever find myself that way. That is such a cool idea! I love surprises. I’d probably end up leaving with an entire armful. lol. I love the 52 things idea as well! Perhaps I’ll implement that once I finish the monthly challenges!

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  3. I like both of these things – the 52 new things, and the bookstore/vending machine. My wife, a librarian, would go crazy in that shop. I love your idea of 52 new things. I think I will have to try this too.

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  4. O this is so great! It tickles my fancy no end!

    A year or so ago I wrote about how I would do one unusual thing a week … hopefully your post will encourage others to make their own lists. Maybe on a Sunday evening or whenever to give some thought as to what unusual thing they may do that week? It could be perfectly simple, as you say, eating a food not eaten before. Bound to get the imagination going … my unusual thing for today (and thus for the week) is to tidy my study, once and for all. A friend is here from the UK and is using my car to go downtown, so here I am, catching up …

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  5. I love this idea both your New Shiny Thing series aka 52 new things, and the book vending machine!

    I’ve not read either of these books, but with those covers I wouldn’t care I bet they look fab on the shelf. 🙂

    Bookcrossing mentioned by Rebel Girl above is so neat. I’m a member, but haven’t logged in any books that I’ve set free in years. I have the bookmarks and little printed paragraph of instructions languishing in my desk. I haven’t found a bookcrossing book in years. 🙂 I guess like me people signed up and then stopped logging the books in.

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    • Thanks for the feedback about Bookcrossing. When I started to dive deeper into how it works, I came to the same conclusion.
      It wasn’t really any different from what I do today, except that I could look up where it ends up – maybe.
      Assuming the recipient knew what to do and actually logged it … the onus would then be back on me to track each book. Ugh. I could see that novelty wearing off very quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That is so cool! I am glad you shared this. Not sure if this is true but I heard the Library in Felon Falls is closing and they are giving all their books away for free. Have you heard of BookCrossing? You should google it if you haven’t.

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  7. I confess that the possibility of making a segue to full-blown couch potato haunted me as I began my transition to retirement, so I love your idea of 52 new things, Joanne. And, although I do not have an addictive personality, I think the bibliomat would draw me in like a drug. No! No! I already have an entire bookcase full of books to be read.

    Jude

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    • LOL!! I know the feeling, but it didn’t stop me from getting 2 more. I am proud however that I managed to restrain myself at only two 🙂

      Do you ever have days when you don’t quite know what to do with yourself – except that any kind of chore just isn’t going to cut it? What I really like about my new things list is that on those days I can look at my list and get all kinds of ideas that I’ve already vetted just waiting for the right day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We have an unusual bookstore close by. An old church has been turned into a bookstore and it’s a great place to sit down and read. I like the idea of unknown reading material, so many treasures have been forgotten over the years. Upstairs in my closet is a bin with old books, rescued at a garage sale. Sadly, it’s sitting there for two years. I don’t seem to have the time -yet.

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    • Old books, much like old movies, have a different pace and feel to them. Sometimes an old book is absolutely the best thing to read … and sometimes it’s just a mindless magazine 🙂

      Those books in your closet will call to you one day!

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  9. What a charming post! I’m sharing it with my librarian friend and a few other book lovers. Since I’m somewhat new to your post, the 52 new things challenge was new and I like it!

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  10. What a great adventure, just for you. This sounds like a wonderful project and I’d love to know about every single new thing that you do (if it’s for public). Think about your fans and don’t start a new one unless you blog first about the one you’ve just done. 😉

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  11. Joanne, I’m going to be bold and say – please reprint your 52 new things blog!! You mentioned you have hard copies…. I love the idea and would be interested to learn how you implemented it. I too, fight inertia!

    I have stacks of books in my to-read pile. I’m dangerous in the held-price book store and try to only visit 2-3 times a year. I like mindless books that have happy ending closures- romance, mystery. I’ve told myself to try a memoir this year to branch out. But I’ve got so many authors to still explore in the genres I like…. I tend to find an author who’s style I like and then read their entire collection! Sandra Brown and Robyn Carr are my latest. I like female authors often!

    Lovely post about this unique library!

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  12. What a great idea. I love visiting old book stores and stores with old books. I also like the idea of 52 new things. I’m still working, so my year is more along the lines of 52 varieties of the same old thing 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was actually not that hard to do. Just going to an ethnic grocery store and trying one new/unusual thing each week would achieve the goal – not that I did that, but I certainly tried my fair share of weird things! 😳

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I love that idea for a book dispenser – genius. It reminds me of my all time favorite book – The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Luis Zafon. In it there is a hidden book store called the Library of Lost Books. A boy enters with his father and the place is a maze – he is told that a book will pick him. Shortly after he starts reading the book, strange things happen to him and his life begins to parallel the book. Great read.

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  14. Lazy is not an adjective that could ever apply to you. Me, however, definitely. I have perfected the art of procrastination. Bookshops are dangerous places where I am concerned, I never leave on without buying something and I would certainly have a go with the vending machine. You are full of surprises Jo. Keep it up 😀

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  15. That is such a wonderful idea. I may have to check this place out the next time I’m there. I love used bookstores anyway but one with a machine that dispenses mystery books? Oh yeah!

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    • This is clearly not for people with control issues 😉
      I’ve already decided that once I’ve had a chance to read these books – either in their entirety or portions of it – I will return them to the Monkey’s Paw and select another 🙂

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  16. First – the word, lazy, is not one anyone would attribute to you. Second – I’m impressed you can still find a small privately owned bookstore to even visit. It seems here they have all been gobbled up by the big guys, but all of then are being outmaneuvered by Amazon. And, third, what a novel idea to have a vending machine and elevate the surprise about reading a book. Love it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 … I’m actually quite good at lazy and have to fight inertia on a regular basis 😏

      You’re right about small bookstores. They are rare indeed, but I think this one works because he’s developed a specialized niche.
      The owner told me that he has visitors coming in from all over the world – remarkable for a small specialty shop that’s off the beaten path.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. OMG, this is cool. I love reading old, old books – I get a feel for not only how people lived their lives back then but the cultural mindset and values as well. Often so very different from today. I can see how far we’ve come, but also where we’ve strayed a bit. I’ve had good luck at Value Village at times for these gems, but this sounds even better.
    I love your 52 new things idea, Joanne!

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    • Your reaction is the same as mine – it’s different from reading a book written today about the past. It’s similar to watching a movie from the 40s compared to one about the 40s. They are not the same.

      I admit that I don’t start off with a definitive list of things I’m going to do. It morphs over the course of the year and it’s always interesting to see where I eventually end up. Not surprisingly, there are always things completed at the end of the year that came out of left field … like the antique book store 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. 52 new things. I love that idea and must have missed your post on this? as I am actually really curious as to what the new things were…. (of course!) And impressed that you set such a fun goal and not only that, but managed to achieve that and then some. So where do I read about your new things? 🙂

    A machine that dispenses books. Not any books but old books. I love the concept. Now I am wondering if you will actual read those books, but of course if you don’t within a year, then at least you know where you can take them to be put to good use. I am thinking I would do this just for the surprise element but would probably land up with a pile of unread books haha.

    Peta

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    • I wish I had known a few months ago that I would be making reference to something I did 3 years ago.
      I had made the decision to keep only 2 years of archives on my blog. Posts prior to 2016 have been deleted … so unfortunately I couldn’t link back to any of those 52 New Things posts.

      They were – and still are – a combination of big things (like meeting a fellow blogger), to little things (like trying an unfamiliar food from the Asian grocery store).
      The beauty of New Things is that it’s highly individualistic and each one of us has a different sense of adventure and risk. There’s no right or wrong answer 🙂

      I’m not sure I will read these books end to end but I will definitely read some of each … and yes, my thought was to eventually return them to The Monkey’s Paw for the vending machine to send them back out to a new owner 🙂

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  19. Hi, Joanne – Great timing on this post! Last week, in Singapore, I saw a ‘mystery book vending machine’….outside of ‘Books Actually’ on Yong Siak Street. The cost of getting a ‘blind date’ book from that machine was $19 Singapore Dollars each (similar to Canadian Dollars). I gave it a miss…. but you can read more about it here: http://www.hypeandstuff.com/books-actually-singapore/

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    • That’s wonderful! There is another mystery book vending machine out there! The difference is that you actually get to select the book, even though you have no idea of the cover.
      It’s too bad you gave it a pass. I would have loved to hear what book you selected 🙂

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    • It kind of reminded me of when I was young and we had stacks of old musty books at The Island (the cabin we went to in the summers). On rainy days, I would often randomly pick up a book and read it. Some were hits, others misses … none of them were exactly high literature 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love that many communities now have tiny libraries that people have set up in their front yards where someone can take or leave a book. It’s a trend I’m seeing more of and I hope it continues to grow.

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  20. Now, of course, you’ll have to do a couple of book reviews so we can all rush down to the Monkey’s Paw and try to get the same books you got from that machine.

    By the way, when I retired my biggest fear was that I would stop being lazy and unmotivated, what with all the extra time I had, to do interesting things. So I came up with a list of 52 Old Excuses to do nothing. And it’s worked, thank God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can always count of you to make me laugh out loud 😆
      Since I spent the first 40+ years of my life as a couch potato, I’m well versed in the art of excuse making – especially if it involves going anywhere during rush hour.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. You are full of great ideas. 52 new things. Boy. I’m not sure I could but maybe my retired husband would like to give it a try now that he’s finished his 150 different craft beers for Canada’s 150th birthday.

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    • Hehehe! I still smile at his 150 craft beers, but I probably would have gone with something like 150 different chocolate bars instead. Perhaps it’s just as well that I didn’t think of it earlier!

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    • Good catch!! I missed the obvious symbolism. Funny, I toyed with the idea of getting a 3rd book and restrained myself. Perhaps you’re right, and my sub-conscious was just leaving the door open for another visit.

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  22. An antique book store with a novel idea–I smiled when I read that. Oh, gosh–I so love old book stores, but a Vending Machine Book Store!! I am so glad you went there–and took photos. Isn’t that bookcase the most beautiful thing?! Great post, Joanne.

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  23. This is so cool! I wish Stephen continued success in his very interesting bookstore. Unique finds like this one are rare these days it seems with all of the big box stores out there.

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  24. This sounds great. I love the bibliomancy idea, that you get a book that is what you need right now. I know the first is an interesting story, and who knows? The second might be great too! Enjoy. I secretly love that there are no books after 1980. That seems okay to me.

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      • I think to me it would feel more instinctively reliable than some spam on the internet which may seem a ‘coincidence’ but is based on info about me and sold to advertisers who then spam me in a way that they hope I’ll fall for. I would be more willking to fall for a book or piece of paper blowing down the street than anything online!

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          • My husband is still so naive that when he sends me emails and talks on the phone and goes on facebook for support groups for this or that illness, and then he gets ads for treatment for that condition, he seems to think it’s worth looking at, instead of KNOWING all his info is sold by facebook for the benefit of its stockholders, openly and without shame. They are even open that they spy on other activities on your phone if you download that thing that notifies you of updates etc. I’m too old and cranky to even use a ‘smartphone’, much less give facebook or anyone else permission to steal my stuff and sell it to others. I stick with things like finding pennies in the street and doing my own tarot, and figure the universe can tell me what it wants to that way!

            Liked by 1 person

  25. Oh this is fabulous, Joanne! Again, I had no idea that was in Toronto. Now the question is – Do you believe in bibliomancy? That’s the idea that when you open a book to some random page, the first sentence your eyes light on will be relevant in some way to your life. I haven’t checked, but perhaps the same is true when a ‘random’ book comes down the chute into your waiting hands?
    Thanks for the blog mention, Joanne. And thanks for writing about your 52 New Things project. I will definitely go back in your archives to read about that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve probably discovered by now that my archives no longer go back past 2016. I made the decision a while ago that I would keep only 2 years of posts on my blog. I think it’s safe to say that it’s rare for someone to go back looking into old blog posts, so I gulped and hit delete.
      … and because I’m not completely crazy (or maybe I am), I kept hard-copies of all my posts. I’m old-school like that 😉

      I had never heard of bibliomancy before – but I’m well acquainted with the concept of picking up a book and reading it from a random spot. I can’t say I’ve ever gleaned any divine knowledge from doing it though.
      I did however blink when the book The Yellow House dropped in the chute. I grew up in a yellow house and I admit to having a certain fondness for them. The jury is still out on Sir John’s memoirs though 😉

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      • I’m going to join all of the others in asking for you to please repost at least your original post about 52 New Things. When you think of all of the junk that is on the Internet, it makes me sad that you are only keeping up two years of posts. Your experiences are trail markers of your own profound journey since retirement and I, for one (and I’m clearly not the only one!) would love to read them.
        Here’s a thought – Since you have hard copies but understandably would rather not repost everything, how about a two or three post series with highlights of 2015? It would save you having to write something new for the next couple of weeks.

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        • I’m definitely a looking-forward kind of person and I really thought that the archive didn’t matter. Who ever goes back to look at that stuff?! Apparently I was wrong 😏

          You have an interesting idea there about re-posting highlights. I’m currently trying to work out a post about the original 2015 project vs what I’m doing now.

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    • When you think of all the ways we routinely ‘waste’ $3, rolling the dice with a book vending machine doesn’t seem like such a gamble … and it’s guaranteed to be unusual!
      The machine gives a throaty whirl before there is the satisfying thunk of a book in the shoot … definitely worth $3 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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