Carolyn Steele Agosta
Decisions, Decisions. (Shopping for Books)
I’m not much of a dedicated shopper when it comes to most things. I don’t hunt down bargains, I rarely remember to use coupons, and I don’t enjoy dallying in shopping malls, just browsing the fashions.
But when it comes to books! Well, that’s another subject.
There are no bookstores near me. Let me say that again. There are NO bookstores NEAR me. Not in my tiny hometown. Not in the next nearest town, which is almost as tiny. Not in the next nearer FOUR towns, including two which are their county seats. There is one used bookstore about twenty miles away in one direction, and the closest Barnes & Noble is about twenty miles away in the other direction.
I mean, seriously? Is that not pathetic?
So when I do go to Barnes & Noble (or an independent bookstore or used bookstore), it is an outing and I allot a generous amount of time to savor, to seek, to b-r-o-w-s-e, and of course, to have a cup of coffee. I usually plan these shopping trips when there are specific books I want. I’ve read about them in a newspaper or on Goodreads, or a friend recommended them, or they’re the newest title by an author I love. I go in to choose that specific book.
And other times, the book chooses me.
There I am, just aimlessly strolling the aisle, heading to look, perhaps, at the selection of journals and daybooks, and I pass a table where books are laid out flat. You can see their entire cover, not just the spine, and as I say, I'm just aimlessly strolling by . . . and some book jumps up and puts itself right into my hands.
Now, I don’t know how this happens. It just does! The book Possession, which I love, was such a case. The cover art didn’t particularly appeal to me. I’d never heard of A.S. Byatt. The blurb wouldn’t have attracted me. I can only figure that it was literary magnetism. The book knew it had found its reader.
And as for Amazon…oh, man. They know what they’re doing. They make it so easy. No, they don’t provide me with a latte and a pumpkin muffin, but otherwise, it’s a very seductive shopping experience. All I need is a partial title, and they can find it. And once I’m on that page, they show me other books by that author, or other books that other people have bought that are similar, or other books that they believe I might like, based on my browsing history. I can search by author, I can search by publisher, I can find the names of all the books in a series and know that I’m not missing a single one.
And I can buy it in hardback, paperback, on Kindle, or even a used copy. Hot dang!
A friend asked if I receive books as gifts. Not so much anymore, because now my family knows to give me Amazon gift cards and then I can buy all kinds of books. I can buy some now and buy some later. And I can read the beginning of most books before I buy.
I recently discovered a publishing company named Dean Street Press which has recently begun reprinting novels from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Quirky little domestic comedies or amateur sleuths. And using Amazon, I can search just by the publisher and find dozens of these books. I love discovering books this way.
I’ve also joined a Facebook group that gives recommendations on the kind of books I like. It’s called The British Book Club, and I’ve gotten the names of a lot of authors that look intriguing. There are ALL KINDS of these groups on Facebook, for virtually every kind of book, and they offer the opportunity to compare favorites.
I rarely look at the Bestsellers list, but I can be tempted by good cover art. However, I also know of many good books that have lousy cover art, and many lousy books with great cover art, so buyer beware. ESPECIALLY beware of any misleading or overly-informative back-of-the-book blurb.
This morning, I just finished reading The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, by Diane Chamberlain. It was lent to me by my daughter Joanna. I began reading it simply because she suggested I might like it. I had gotten about 120 pages in, was feeling caught up in the story and worried about where the main character was going, and then had to put it aside for a while. As I set it down, I glanced at the back cover and saw the book blurb. I read it. SPOILER ALERT!!!!! The blurb nearly ruined the story for me. It completely destroyed the great build-up of apprehension that the author had created and told me flat-out what was going to happen next. What??!!!
I was seriously displeased.
Now, I realize there are a gazillion books out there, and you have to give people a reason to select THAT particular book, but I felt they had given too much away. This will show up in my review of the book and I hope it will be duly noted. (Book reviews are another way that I find books!) (I write a lot of reviews!) (I'm a helpful soul to other readers!) (I'm hooked on parentheses!)
Anyway, I did finish the book, and enjoyed it, and recommend it. Just don’t read that back-of-the-book blurb.