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Author Topic: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources  (Read 2805 times)

Sorcha

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I finally picked up a book on witchcraft, the Hedge Witch Book of Days, and it has all kinds of fun stuff in it (recipes!). However, since it's basically a "through the year" kind of a book, it's a little light on practical stuff and I'd love more information.

First off, a little about me. I'm 30 years old as exploring a new path. I've been sort of on this journey for maybe nine months. Publicly, I'm an Episcopal Christian with Celtic leanings, but I'm also extremely drawn to druidry, pagan ideas, and recently, witchcraft. I feel like Brigid, who kind of straddles the pagan and Christian world, keeps elbowing me, as well.

I have my own place and live well away from family, which is good since I cannot imagine them being supportive of anything even mildly witchy or pagan. I grew up fundamental-lite Christian, so yeah. They love me, but "going to hell" would be a very real concern for them.

Anyway, I'm not particularly interested in ceremonial magic at the moment, although I do like ceremony (hence the Episcopal thing), ritual, etc. I want practicality, and I'm curious about the Green/Hedge/Kitchen Witch path--I've dabbled in herbs since I was in my teens and kept a nature journal for almost as long, so being connected to nature and working with plants isn't entirely new.

Also, I love physical books, so "go check out this website" is probably not something I'm going to do on a regular basis. I'd much rather hold a book in my hand that I can read, take notes in, mark, etc.

I'm eyeing Grimoire for the Green Witch. It has tons of high reviews on Amazon (and keep in mind I'm a BEGINNNER as in I have barely actually done anything yet--I'm also staying with my parents for a bit due to a break from work and family circumstances--so books that absolutely spell out the basics are totally fine). I'm not particularly interested in Wicca as a religion although I like the god/goddess concept, etc.

I guess what I'm really looking for is basic books on magic, but not so much ceremonial magic as practical magic.

As a sort of somewhat related question, I was listening to a podcast and somebody was saying that the idea of a "power animal" is--off? Wrong? I hadn't really heard the term "power animal" before, but I got the idea that it's sort of what other people call a "spirit animal". The book I have refers to them as "power animals". Is this wrong? What were they talking about? Help? (I'm so lost... if something I've said doesn't make sense or needs clarification just ask... I may have said it weird since I'm extremely new to this and paganism and magic is sort of a foreign language; I'm still getting over my fundie "magic is devil worship" and "using crystals sounds so hokey even though I can see why you would" hangups in some areas.)


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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2017, 12:46:11 am »
Quote from: Sorcha;201483
I'm eyeing Grimoire for the Green Witch.

Ann Moura comes not so recommended for various reasons, partially bad history, partially Christian-bashing. I've never read her work so I can't tell you if the practical magic side is decent if you ignore the sketchy stuff. I guess my suggestion for her is to see if the library has it rather than spending your hard earned cash on a copy.

(someone else on the forum might have more detailed explanation on what exactly is wrong with Ann Moura's work; I know she's come up here a few times at least)

Quote from: Sorcha;201483
I guess what I'm really looking for is basic books on magic, but not so much ceremonial magic as practical magic.

That I can help you with!

Mrs B's Guide to Household Witchery is absolutely the book I would suggest. I wrote a long review on my blog about it, so you can see what I mean in detail, but she focuses on practical witchcraft that you can do with the ingredients in your kitchen. Great for beginners and witches on a budget.

The book also does talk about things from a Wiccish perspective, but it's light enough you can take it, leave it, modify it as you wish. (I'm not any flavor of Wiccan at all and I found the book super useful.)

Quote from: Sorcha;201483
As a sort of somewhat related question, I was listening to a podcast and somebody was saying that the idea of a "power animal" is--off? Wrong? I hadn't really heard the term "power animal" before, but I got the idea that it's sort of what other people call a "spirit animal". The book I have refers to them as "power animals". Is this wrong? What were they talking about? Help? (I'm so lost... if something I've said doesn't make sense or needs clarification just ask... I may have said it weird since I'm extremely new to this and paganism and magic is sort of a foreign language; I'm still getting over my fundie "magic is devil worship" and "using crystals sounds so hokey even though I can see why you would" hangups in some areas.)

There's a lot of tension surrounding this concept in pagandom because of issues with cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, people don't believe in nuance anymore, so often things get labeled as cultural appropriation and therefore terribad when often it's more complicated than that.

So one of the words that lots of pagans use to refer to animal (or plant or fungi) spirits is "totem". This is considered cultural appropriation because the word "totem" is an Anglicized version of "doodem", an Anishinaabe word for "clan".

However, this has spread out to people thinking this means that unless you're Native, you can't have any animal spirit guides or companions, that the words "spirit animal" are cultural appropriation, or that the very idea of having any sort of connection with the spirit of an animal (whether that animal's species or an individual animal) or interacting with them at all is a monopoly held by Native cultures.

The thing is, the interaction with animal spirits is...just a human thing. It can be found in various forms in cultures all over the world, both modern and historically. And the term "spirit animal" is not a Native term (nor is "power animal").

There are definitely cases where people are using those terms in an effort to cash in on "Native American spirituality" and how exotic that seems to non-Native folks, but that doesn't mean the terms themselves are bad ways of explaining a numinous concept (for which it is often hard to find words anyways), or that they are specifically Native terms (both terms are English, with words that originated in Latin; putting the words together in that order is not something monopolized by any one culture or group of cultures).

It just means that if someone is using one of those terms, read a little closer to see how they're using it. If it seems like they're trying to add Native mysticism to whatever they're talking about by using that term, then yeah, that's probably pretty crappy. But otherwise, people using the terms "spirit animal" or "power animal" are usually just using terms where they put together two different words based in Latin to refer to something that is really hard to actually explain in human language.

Basically, it's a big complicated mess that people have simplified to "Don't use these words or concepts or you're a terrible person!" which is just not helpful to anyone.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 12:47:13 am by Morag »
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Sorcha

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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2017, 01:08:07 am »
Quote from: Morag;201505
Ann Moura comes not so recommended for various reasons, partially bad history, partially Christian-bashing. I've never read her work so I can't tell you if the practical magic side is decent if you ignore the sketchy stuff. I guess my suggestion for her is to see if the library has it rather than spending your hard earned cash on a copy.

(someone else on the forum might have more detailed explanation on what exactly is wrong with Ann Moura's work; I know she's come up here a few times at least)



That I can help you with!

Mrs B's Guide to Household Witchery is absolutely the book I would suggest. I wrote a long review on my blog about it, so you can see what I mean in detail, but she focuses on practical witchcraft that you can do with the ingredients in your kitchen. Great for beginners and witches on a budget.

The book also does talk about things from a Wiccish perspective, but it's light enough you can take it, leave it, modify it as you wish. (I'm not any flavor of Wiccan at all and I found the book super useful.)


 
There's a lot of tension surrounding this concept in pagandom because of issues with cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, people don't believe in nuance anymore, so often things get labeled as cultural appropriation and therefore terribad when often it's more complicated than that.

So one of the words that lots of pagans use to refer to animal (or plant or fungi) spirits is "totem". This is considered cultural appropriation because the word "totem" is an Anglicized version of "doodem", an Anishinaabe word for "clan".

However, this has spread out to people thinking this means that unless you're Native, you can't have any animal spirit guides or companions, that the words "spirit animal" are cultural appropriation, or that the very idea of having any sort of connection with the spirit of an animal (whether that animal's species or an individual animal) or interacting with them at all is a monopoly held by Native cultures.

The thing is, the interaction with animal spirits is...just a human thing. It can be found in various forms in cultures all over the world, both modern and historically. And the term "spirit animal" is not a Native term (nor is "power animal").

There are definitely cases where people are using those terms in an effort to cash in on "Native American spirituality" and how exotic that seems to non-Native folks, but that doesn't mean the terms themselves are bad ways of explaining a numinous concept (for which it is often hard to find words anyways), or that they are specifically Native terms (both terms are English, with words that originated in Latin; putting the words together in that order is not something monopolized by any one culture or group of cultures).

It just means that if someone is using one of those terms, read a little closer to see how they're using it. If it seems like they're trying to add Native mysticism to whatever they're talking about by using that term, then yeah, that's probably pretty crappy. But otherwise, people using the terms "spirit animal" or "power animal" are usually just using terms where they put together two different words based in Latin to refer to something that is really hard to actually explain in human language.

Basically, it's a big complicated mess that people have simplified to "Don't use these words or concepts or you're a terrible person!" which is just not helpful to anyone.

 
I did a bit of a whirlwind tour of local metaphysical shops today. (Found two open, and a third sadly closed.) I did end up picking up Grimoire, a book called The Book of Celtic Magic, and a tarot deck I've had my eye on--probably the best purchase of the day.

I'm actually still a practicing Christian (although what that practice looks like is getting... interesting; I'm definitely in an experimental phase) and I honestly get a bit of Christian-bashing, though I've really appreciated the sensitivity to it that is practiced on TC. I had a boyfriend who had literal panic attacks if attending church became necessary for some reason due to childhood bad experiences, so not all bashing is sadly unwarranted. Nuance, as you said.

I'm also pretty okay with sketch history. It's common in herbalism, which is kind of one of my entry points into magic and paganism, so I'm used to what it looks like and how it happens, and it frankly doesn't bother me much.

Your explanation of power/spirit animals was SUPER helpful. That's kind of what my feeling was, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't just WRONG instead of just possibly offensive if not used carefully. I didn't want to be flinging around a term that made me sound ridiculous or ignorant or offensive, so yeah. (Not that I see myself flinging around any terms anytime soon; my family is very not pagan friendly, sadly.) I was thinking about what animal might be an animal I'd have an affinity for, and the squirrel is definitely high on the list.

I will definitely check out your book recommendation; I have an Amazon gift card that's burning a hole in my pocket, so that might be a good purchase!




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Beryl

Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2017, 03:33:03 am »
Quote from: Sorcha;201507

 a book called The Book of Celtic Magic,

 
Is that by Kristoffer Hughes? I haven't read the whole thing, but I really like it so far (I tend to start a book then wander off to another...) It's nice to see something that focuses on Welsh stuff, specifically.

I've found Supermarket Magic quite helpful, it's another book that focuses on straightforward stuff you can do in your kitchen with readily-available ingredients (everything should be available in one of those massive ultra supermarkets, and probably 90-95% of the listed ingredients are available in a well-stocked small supermarket/large grocery store). It's fairly secular (I don't recall any 'call on Deity X' or even 'call on your deity' type stuff) but does have a (possibly slightly preachy, can't really remember) section on ethics, but they're pretty standard 'don't do anything that goes against free will and do try to include something like "for the good of all concerned" just to make sure' which I think is pretty decent and sensible advice, tbh, and I'd guess would probably be pretty comfortable for someone coming from a Christian POV.

It's divided into chapters (Money, Healing, Love, the usual sort of thing - I'd have to check but I think the Love section is more 'attracting love' in a general way, not 'make X fall madly in love with me') and then pretty much each chapter has mostly the same types of spell in terms of physical format - oils, powders, candle stuff, etc - with different ingredients and such, so it's probably also quite good when you want to move on from step-by-step instructions (which it has) to figuring out how to adapt stuff to a specific need.

Sorcha

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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2017, 08:07:35 am »
Quote from: Beryl;201508
Is that by Kristoffer Hughes? I haven't read the whole thing, but I really like it so far (I tend to start a book then wander off to another...) It's nice to see something that focuses on Welsh stuff, specifically.

I've found Supermarket Magic quite helpful, it's another book that focuses on straightforward stuff you can do in your kitchen with readily-available ingredients (everything should be available in one of those massive ultra supermarkets, and probably 90-95% of the listed ingredients are available in a well-stocked small supermarket/large grocery store). It's fairly secular (I don't recall any 'call on Deity X' or even 'call on your deity' type stuff) but does have a (possibly slightly preachy, can't really remember) section on ethics, but they're pretty standard 'don't do anything that goes against free will and do try to include something like "for the good of all concerned" just to make sure' which I think is pretty decent and sensible advice, tbh, and I'd guess would probably be pretty comfortable for someone coming from a Christian POV.

It's divided into chapters (Money, Healing, Love, the usual sort of thing - I'd have to check but I think the Love section is more 'attracting love' in a general way, not 'make X fall madly in love with me') and then pretty much each chapter has mostly the same types of spell in terms of physical format - oils, powders, candle stuff, etc - with different ingredients and such, so it's probably also quite good when you want to move on from step-by-step instructions (which it has) to figuring out how to adapt stuff to a specific need.

 
That also sounds good! (I'm totally okay/comfortable with the idea of calling on other deities, but it's nice to have the option of just doing the spell without that.) And as a relatively poor person, being able to get my supplies at the grocery store is a good thing.

And yes, I have Hughes' book and, so far, it's good. It seems super informative and absolutely packed with information, and also really well researched, so that's awesome. (It also has footnotes, which means I can look up other books... possibly dangerous to my bank account lol.)


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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2017, 09:59:49 am »
Quote from: Sorcha;201483

I guess what I'm really looking for is basic books on magic, but not so much ceremonial magic as practical magic.


As noted, Ann Moura's stuff is not highly recommended: she has good snippets in there, but there's so much stuff that isn't that there are almost always better options.
 
Books I like:

As an overview: Brandy Williams' Practical Magic for Beginners: Techniques & Rituals to Focus Magical Energy. Her background is ceremonial magic and witchcraft, but she's one of those people who does a great job synthesising material into something very usable, and her depth of historical knowledge makes her really good at saying "Here's this practice, and here's some other places that influenced how it gets talked about." that turn out to be pragmatic and immediately useful but not limiting.

For general stuff, I like Deborah Blake's books for approaches to magic that are centered on personal practical needs without lots of fancy stuff, and she's good about explaining why she suggests something, suggests alternate options when they're relevant, etc.

Tess Whitehurst also isn't bad for ideas, though her books don't have as much explanation of why she suggests X or Y thing, which makes it hard for me to give it a solid recommendation.

You might also find Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection by    Draja Mickaharic particularly interesting. (Also other titles, but that one is on the bookshelves of a lot of people I know) : it comes from the Eastern European folk magic tradition and has a lot of practical tips, and a number of the methods in there include Christian psalms or related texts or have them as an option.
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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2017, 10:16:48 am »
Quote from: Jenett;201523
As noted, Ann Moura's stuff is not highly recommended: she has good snippets in there, but there's so much stuff that isn't that there are almost always better options.
 
Books I like:

As an overview: Brandy Williams' Practical Magic for Beginners: Techniques & Rituals to Focus Magical Energy. Her background is ceremonial magic and witchcraft, but she's one of those people who does a great job synthesising material into something very usable, and her depth of historical knowledge makes her really good at saying "Here's this practice, and here's some other places that influenced how it gets talked about." that turn out to be pragmatic and immediately useful but not limiting.

For general stuff, I like Deborah Blake's books for approaches to magic that are centered on personal practical needs without lots of fancy stuff, and she's good about explaining why she suggests something, suggests alternate options when they're relevant, etc.

Tess Whitehurst also isn't bad for ideas, though her books don't have as much explanation of why she suggests X or Y thing, which makes it hard for me to give it a solid recommendation.

You might also find Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection by Draja Mickaharic particularly interesting. (Also other titles, but that one is on the bookshelves of a lot of people I know) : it comes from the Eastern European folk magic tradition and has a lot of practical tips, and a number of the methods in there include Christian psalms or related texts or have them as an option.

 
Thank you for the recommendations! I'm popping them in my wishlist as we speak. I have a lot of material to digest for sure, but I know I'll want more (I tend to absorb stuff quickly, so yeah.) The Deborah Blake book Everyday Witchcraft looks especially helpful. And I found the Candle Magic for Beginners book through looking at Practical Magic. Candle magic intrigues me, so that's in there, too.


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Beryl

Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2017, 11:41:38 am »
Quote from: Sorcha;201525
Thank you for the recommendations! I'm popping them in my wishlist as we speak. I have a lot of material to digest for sure, but I know I'll want more (I tend to absorb stuff quickly, so yeah.) The Deborah Blake book Everyday Witchcraft looks especially helpful. And I found the Candle Magic for Beginners book through looking at Practical Magic. Candle magic intrigues me, so that's in there, too.


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Oh, yes, I really like Deborah Blake, as well. I'd also suggest checking out the Pagan Portals range by Moon Books - they're usually quite slim volumes (maybe 100-200 pages, probably on the low end of that?) and cost around £5-£6, so they're quite a good 'taster' for various topics, and the ones I've read have all been well written and seemed well-researched, without so much 'waffle' as a lot of bigger (and more expensive) books, which often feel a bit, erm, 'padded'. (Though if money's very tight they may not feel like particularly amazing value as they really are quite short.)

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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2017, 11:52:05 am »
Quote from: Beryl;201527
Oh, yes, I really like Deborah Blake, as well. I'd also suggest checking out the Pagan Portals range by Moon Books - they're usually quite slim volumes (maybe 100-200 pages, probably on the low end of that?) and cost around £5-£6, so they're quite a good 'taster' for various topics, and the ones I've read have all been well written and seemed well-researched, without so much 'waffle' as a lot of bigger (and more expensive) books, which often feel a bit, erm, 'padded'. (Though if money's very tight they may not feel like particularly amazing value as they really are quite short.)

 
I think I have one of those on druidry. I'll have to check more out for sure.

I really wish my local library had pagan books; there are literally zero unless I'm looking in the wrong section. Sigh.


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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2017, 12:38:46 pm »
Quote from: Sorcha;201528
I think I have one of those on druidry. I'll have to check more out for sure.

I really wish my local library had pagan books; there are literally zero unless I'm looking in the wrong section. Sigh.


Cataloging for Pagan books is weird. If you're willing to post your library system (or send it to me in a PM), I'm glad to poke at it and tell you the magic search words.

(Also, Maine has a pretty good library network for getting books from other libraries in the state, and I can tell you about that, too, but it depends which part of it you're in.)
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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2017, 12:42:30 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;201530
Cataloging for Pagan books is weird. If you're willing to post your library system (or send it to me in a PM), I'm glad to poke at it and tell you the magic search words.

(Also, Maine has a pretty good library network for getting books from other libraries in the state, and I can tell you about that, too, but it depends which part of it you're in.)

 
I'm beginning to feel self-conscious about my interlibrary loan requests after the stack of alchemy books I got over the summer, lol. I don't want to worry the little old librarians. But you're right; it's an amazing system.

My library is the Jesup Memorial Library. I'm kicking myself now for not checking to see if the fabulous library sale included any pagan books, but I didn't even think of it at the time (I bought an enormous number of nature books, though). I'll hit it next year.


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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2017, 12:42:54 pm »
Quote from: Sorcha;201531
I'm beginning to feel self-conscious about my interlibrary loan requests after the stack of alchemy books I got over the summer, lol. I don't want to worry the little old librarians. But you're right; it's an amazing system.

My library is the Jesup Memorial Library. I'm kicking myself now for not checking to see if the fabulous library sale included any pagan books, but I didn't even think of it at the time (I bought an enormous number of nature books, though). I'll hit it next year.


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Oh, and feel free to PM me.


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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2017, 01:22:45 pm »
Quote from: Sorcha;201531
I'm beginning to feel self-conscious about my interlibrary loan requests after the stack of alchemy books I got over the summer, lol. I don't want to worry the little old librarians. But you're right; it's an amazing system.

My library is the Jesup Memorial Library. I'm kicking myself now for not checking to see if the fabulous library sale included any pagan books, but I didn't even think of it at the time (I bought an enormous number of nature books, though). I'll hit it next year.


If it's any reassurance, your local library catalog does make this search legitimately confusing.

If you don't mind, I might make a new thread with it, and use your library as an example? Sometime tonight, when I get home from work.

(And don't worry about worrying the librarians: chances are at least half of them are delighted to have something new going through their hands. There are some things about ILL and small libraries and people you know in small towns for some people that it's worth thinking about - I never did ILL at the library I worked at in Maine for anything other than professional reading and a couple of really quirky but explainable research projects, because not things I wanted my co-workers to know I was reading. But if you don't have concerns about that, request away!)
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Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2017, 01:24:54 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;201533
If it's any reassurance, your local library catalog does make this search legitimately confusing.

If you don't mind, I might make a new thread with it, and use your library as an example? Sometime tonight, when I get home from work.

(And don't worry about worrying the librarians: chances are at least half of them are delighted to have something new going through their hands. There are some things about ILL and small libraries and people you know in small towns for some people that it's worth thinking about - I never did ILL at the library I worked at in Maine for anything other than professional reading and a couple of really quirky but explainable research projects, because not things I wanted my co-workers to know I was reading. But if you don't have concerns about that, request away!)

 
Go for it! I feel like it would be fabulously helpful for me and others to understand how to find pagan books in libraries.

I've found my library difficult to search, so it doesn't surprise me. It makes up for it in charm and antiquity, but yeah.

Edited to add: I'm actually surprised there isn't an actual pagan shop in the area.


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Re: Exploring "low" magic and could use some suggestions on resources
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2017, 02:02:48 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;201523
For general stuff, I like Deborah Blake's books for approaches to magic that are centered on personal practical needs without lots of fancy stuff, and she's good about explaining why she suggests something, suggests alternate options when they're relevant, etc.

Tess Whitehurst also isn't bad for ideas, though her books don't have as much explanation of why she suggests X or Y thing, which makes it hard for me to give it a solid recommendation.


I read Everyday Witchcraft last year; very enjoyable, I held on to it as long as the library would allow me to, then paid a rather hefty late fee too. It was worth it. :D:

Tess Whitehurst, on the other hand, I didn't enjoy. Too much of a New Age vibe, which I have nothing against in principle, but rubbed me the wrong way in practice. YMMV.

An alternative to libraries and local shops is BookMooch. It may take a while for a wish list item to become available (and some, inevitable, never do), but it's always good news when it does.
'You created us restless, O Lord, and we find no rest until we rest in You.'
~St Augustine~
Whole blog o' nonsense: Are We There Yet?

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