Tote Bag Tuesday: 02.20.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

There seems to be a trend with other book bloggers in sharing what kinds of books are in their mailboxes. I am 90% supportive of my fellow book-blogging friends and 10% jealous. Because really, I am a true advocate of literacy and genuinely happy for others when they are able to snatch up books for their collections.

My 10% green envy does, however, stem from my deep desire to nurture my own personal book collection into a full-blown, rich, and gargantuan library filled with literary fiction, beautiful cover designs, and trade paperback bliss.

My mailbox is far too small to fulfill this desire. And the post person who comes to visit me daily is both kind, but tardy. And I’m not one to enjoy this “wait-until-he-arrives” kind of relationship. I do not pace the span of my living room for anyone. Just ask my husband and he’ll tell you. I practically ran a marathon all the way to the altar, without so much as a rest stop, thank you very much.

I tend to take the initiative. And that tends to lead me to bookstores with my very empty, yet very open and willing tote bag.

(c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Yes, my tote bag is also a rice bag. I’m an Asian who happens to eat a lot of rice. It’s my daily staple. I also happen to be an Asian who buys a lot of books. Also, my daily staple. My logic is this: if a sack can carry 10 lbs. worth of rice, then it should also be sturdy enough to handle 10 lbs. worth of my book bound happiness. And it does.

Let’s open the bag and see what’s inside:

(c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Okay, so they didn’t actually come out of the bag like that, but that’s another thing I haven’t mentioned. I have an obsessive-compulsive personality who cares deeply about the condition of my newly bought books. A few clothes on the floor, toys under the table, or papers in piles around my desk, I can handle. My books, though, receive first class treatment. They have reserved spaces mentally marked out for them on my bookshelves. And they are dusted periodically with love and care.

Now, I do, however, understand the love of reading them as well, which means I am willing to tolerate well-seasoned copies because of it. Yellowing pages, a wrinkle here, even a coffee spilled mark there. These things I will record with nostalgia as a mother does in looking at her child’s healed scar: glad for survival and the testament to overcome.

The one thing I cannot tolerate though, is a folded corner at the top of a pristine page! This, to me, is an immoral book sin. It’s an abomination to the etiquette of reading! This is precisely what the bookmark was created for. Do what you have to. Stick a business card in there. A postcard. A photograph. A napkin. A sock. It does not matter—just, please; do not fold the corner of a page to mark where you have left off reading. *shudder*

But, I digress. Perhaps my next post shall cover the variety of bookmarks available to readers and the etiquette of reading other people’s treasured belongings.

But, for now, I’d like to share with you what’s in my tote bag:

Lisa See has vision indeed. I bought her two books, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, historical fiction books about young girls in the seventeenth and nineteenth-century China.


And stories about what it means to be a geisha in Japan with Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.


Or what it means to be an empress in the great Tang Dynasty with Empress: A Novel by Shan Sa and Empress Orchid by Anchee Min.


And other Asian-inspired novels such as: The Year of Finding Memory by Judy Fong Bates, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjiana Soli, Translations of Beauty by Mia Yun, Saving Fish from Drowning, and The Concubine’s Daughter by Pai Kit Fai.



And so, as I make room on my bookshelf for these new books of Asian history, love, and conquest, I think about making myself a hot cup of green tea before I sit down and read.

What have you put in your tote bag lately?


10 thoughts on “Tote Bag Tuesday: 02.20.2012”

  1. Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’. And I should confess – I’m not only a page folder; I’m a spine-breaker. A book that looks like new on my shelf is one I’ve never gone back to; the ones I love, in pieces…

    1. I pictured as such! Do you also scribble notes in the margins? Yet, I know that a well-loved book is much like The Velveteen Rabbit: more real with each rip and ruin of its pages and as you put it, its “broken spine!” Thanks for stopping by. And enjoy Ishiguro. I’ll be sure to think of you when I read it. Maybe even crack its spine in your homage. Yikes! What am I saying?

  2. Zara, you ROCK! You have such a way with words and are so funny!! Congrats on the awesome rice bag of books this week! We truly are kindred spirits!!

    Happy Reading!!
    Your BFFFB, Lins xxx

    1. You are my kindred, Lins. I knew from the moment we met and chatted that we share a deep love for these book critters, which have taken over our mailboxes and our rice sacks. (Your beauties have wonderful covers!) With you, I coerce myself into being only 2% jealous because you’re so wonderful. You are the “Diana Barry” to my “Anne.” – BFFFB

  3. Haha. You are totally right – we are twins. Honestly, when I saw that tear in my “A Monster Calls” copy I tried to ignore it and keep reading, but found I was so bothered by it that I had to go back and re-read a few pages.

    I would love to read your post on the variety of bookmarks available to readers and the etiquette of reading other people’s treasured belongings. Then we can combine forces – my blogging pledge and your etiquette of reading – and we will take over the blogging world, Pinky and the Brain styles.

  4. Great book choices! I came home from the second hand store today with a few including Kate Morton’s The shifting Fog and Sheila O Flanagans Someone Special

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