"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Scoring 'The View From Serendip'

The View from SerendipThe View from Serendip by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not too long ago I was forced to hide in the basement of my local public library during a tornado warning. During the two hours the staff and several of us patrons hid from the twister that never came, I snooped through the library’s stockpile of used books. This yard sale collection is rolled out every couple of months to provide much-needed funds for library operations. Anyhow, while snooping I discovered a copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s hard-to-find opus The View from Serendip.

I asked a library volunteer if, in the event we survived the non-existent tornado, I could take this out-of-print book upstairs and buy it right away…Y’know, instead of waiting for the next book sale when someone else might grab it first. The library volunteer uttered a rather curt reply: “No. And don’t take books off these shelves. I’m trying to keep them organized.” Smarting from her rebuke, I put the book back and resolved to hide in a friendlier part of the library’s basement while no tornados touched down anywhere in the county.

A couple of months later there was a properly sanctioned library book sale. Brushing past several suspicious elderly women, I nabbed the book first. (I’m sure those grandmothers were headed towards it. I saw that “Sir Arthur C. Clarke is dreamy!” look in their eyes.) And that’s the story of how I scored a good-condition hardcover of The View of Serendip for a single dollar. Hooray for used book sales at public libraries!

I’ve shared the above story in lieu of a review that would inevitably wind up being a love fest for one of my favorite authors. But I’ll add this: The View From Serendip is one of those great books that reminds me of the worthy writings of the late Carl Sagan. In contrast to the stereotype of godless scientists performing insidious research, this book reveals the scientific mind I more commonly encounter: one which is ethical, hope-driven, and which has a passionate desire to see humanity grow, mature, and prosper.

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  1. Um hilarious! How dare you try to remove a used book that is no longer in circulation and for which you volunteered to pay prior to the appointed sale date! Librarians must hate you!

  2. I know. I'm such a problem customer ;-)

  3. Awesome find!! You know, I lie around DREAMING of being "trapped" in a library for an indefinite amount of time...

  4. That's my kind of dream...but it's got to be a huge library, like Library of Congress size.