Book club

When in Vancouver, B.C., thrift books

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

May 10, 2023

What started out as a random book thrift in Vancouver, Canada turned into one of my favorite reads of the year.

In last week’s edition of Book Club, I briefly mentioned a certain 2007, raunchy British novel written by author Marie Phillips about the Greek gods shriveling up in a rundown flat in London. The story behind how I stumbled upon this little novel is nearly as interesting as its plot. 

Our story begins in Vancouver, British Columbia — in good old Canada — where I was partaking in a research conference. (I bet you didn’t expect this column holder to be invited to such swanky, scholastic affairs, but you, my friend, are sorely mistaken.) 

My little sister is attending college at a university in Washington state, a few hours’ drive from where I was staying, and since it’s rare to find us on the same coastline these days, she made the trek up north and we spent the day together. 

Together we ambled around Yaletown, ate our way down Robson Street and I even got to swing by the Muji Store — an English student’s dream come true. But before our day was done and our wallets emptied, we decided to swing by a thrift store nearby. 

I can’t remember its name — in case you were planning on modeling your own Vancouver voyage after mine, so sorry to let you down — but the place was awesome. Artsy and full of random gizmos, it was very much giving Vancouver, which if you didn’t know, is a vibe. 

It was there that I found “Gods Behaving Badly” (and this really nice corduroy button-up jacket, complete with a chunky 2000’s belt — but this is a book column, not a fashion one). 

The corner where they held their books was small and cluttered in the way that makes you want to dig through it even more. I wandered over, at first just trying to look mysterious and interesting, and soon found a copy of the book in my hands. 

This cover, in particular, had the characters drawn as though they were etched onto the side of an ancient greek vase — an amphora, or whatever the technical term is for them — but instead of having their livers plucked out by giant eagles, some were on the phone or riding motorcycles. 

Ooh, I thought, always one to judge a book by its cover. This one made a great first impression. 

I bought it, along with another title, “Sushi For Beginners” by Marian Keyes. Yes, I read the back, don’t worry — but my interest was piqued and sometimes that is good enough. 

In all honesty, I was fairly certain I would never get around to reading it, but at least the cover looked nice and it sounded like a good time, in theory. So, I packed it in my bag along with all my other goodies, shelved it when I got home along with all my other books and left it there. 

Months went by, the semester picked up steam and vaporized me where I sat at my desk. It wasn’t until winter break that the little particles of myself re-coagulated and I suddenly found myself with an entire month’s worth of free time. Can you guess what I did next?

I filled an entire suitcase with books and made a beeline for my parents’ house, packed like I was burrowing down for hibernation with only the written word to sustain me. And that’s basically what I did. “Gods Behaving Badly” made the cut and was the third book I picked up in five days. 

When I tell you I read it so fast, I mean I very well could have vaporized myself again and re-re-coagulated and not noticed, I was so enthralled. 

What started off as a random find turned into one of my favorite reads of the year. I laughed, I blushed, I kicked my feet and hid my face in its pages. Read this book with no more context than this article and have a most wondrous time. 

Schutte can be reached at [email protected]