I thought I would use this post to mention a few stores, websites, and institutions that are helping me study for this exam in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible. I will go ahead and point out that no, there are not currently any libraries on this list as I don’t like to use them. I have a hard time with the idea of giving the book back. I am really not against libraries in any other way; I just personally do not like to use them. With that being said, here are just a few of my most valued resources:
Half Price Books
I love bookstores. And Half Price Books serves as my sort of substitute library. Because I immediately buy my books without knowing if I will really want to keep them or not, the ones I end up voting against becoming part of my collection end up at HPB. I happily take my .50 that I get for an ordinary paperback and go buy myself a soda.
And of course, HPB has the obvious benefit of offering books at a reduced rate. That would come in handy for anyone really, but especially for someone who does not use libraries. I recently found The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson in the edition recommended by the professors at UTSA. At list price, the book would have cost me over $20, but at HPB I was able to get it for only $8.
I have also been fortunate enough to find two textbooks there. Now of course, this is pretty rare as the selection is hit or miss as it is. When I find a textbook, there is a moment of slight disbelief, followed by an adrenaline rush because I feel that even though I am standing two inches from it, someone else will swoop in and take it.
But perhaps the purchase I am most fond of from HPB is the Barnes and Noble edition of The Canterbury Tales that has both the old English text and a modern day translation side by side on each page as you read. It is brilliant. And speaking of Barnes and Noble…
Barnes and Noble
Once again, I love bookstores. And while I have a special place in my heart for HPB, there is just something about the smell of a brand new book. And for that, B&N is my chain bookstore of choice. And that copy I found of The Canterbury Tales was not my first encounter with a B&N edition. When it comes to buying classics, I always try to get a B&N edition (and fortunately, HPB usually has plenty of them). Even brand new, these editions aren’t very expensive, and I still get that new book smell.
Also, because HPB’s inventory is usually so hit or miss, I use B&N to research which poetry anthologies have everything I need, and then I go to HPB to see if I can find them for a reduced rate.
This well-known website is also good for reduced rates if you know what you’re looking for. And I am always a sucker for the Free Super-Saver Shipping. Even if I intend to buy only one book costing $10.00, I will force my self to find other items equaling at least $15.00 so I can get the free shipping. Granted, if I am buying school books, that is not hard to do.
Another great thing about Amazon.com is that they have a pretty great buy back program for their textbooks. I recently returned a set of Norton Anthologies that were still in great condition even after a semester of use, and got pretty close to half of my money back. Granted, I immediately spent it on a video game, but I can’t blame Amazon for that.
This is a website for readers. Plain and simple. Each user starts out with three basic lists to use: "read," "currently reading," and "to read." From there users can create as many other lists, or “shelves”, as they want. I also have "to buy," and "school books." The site keeps me organized and helps me take note and remember which editions I need to look for. Also, like B&N and Amazon, Goodreads.com has an iPhone app. It is probably the app I use the most after Facebook.
Of course I cannot forget the institution that is forcing me to take this monster exam just to prove that I deserve a Master of Arts degree in English. And even though UTSA is the reason for all of this, the professors and staff do provide a wonderful amount of support for all students going through this process. In my fall class, we will be going over four of the optional works included on the list, as well as one required work. In fact, almost each class I have taken has had the students read at least two works that are on the list. This is of course extremely useful because we receive vital information from people who are not only experts in these subject areas, but a lot of them also collaborated on the actual test itself. And when it comes to complex essay questions on works such as The Sound and the Fury, I prefer to not be left to my own devices.
I am sure there will be more sponsors as I continue in the process. One resource that I currently do not use, but many of my fellow students have made extensive use of, is Librivox.org - free audio books read by volunteers. As I get closer to my test, I have a strange feeling that although I have not used it yet, and even though I don’t really care for audio books, I will probably end up using this resource.