I picked up a page turner recently. Some way into it, I didn't really 'feel' it. But I kept on, not sure what to look for on the kindle. It was from an airport book store. One of the top rated books. I, in my holiday mood, 'I want to be surprised' mood. Keen to pick up something new..(I was already feeling proud of myself for not making the cab turn back on our way to airport upon realizing that I left my specs behind. Brave, new, adventurous me says, lens should do for now. Let's depend less on stuff! I am holding up fine...probably a first in years or decades, shall I say) So book purchase. Just three shelves devoted to all the fiction they have. More than two of them were thrillers, novels, fiction of the 'read and forget' types...quite surprised to see that half of the book store was just 20 boxes of top 20.
How does one then 'stumble on' something awesome?
Anyway. I finished the book earlier this week.
But meanwhile, in Hobart, in the general square, after a late afternoon lunch, on a warm, sunny day (its the same afternoon of the airport book store), I walk into this small bookstore (small, as in good enough for neighborhood, but small for city centre). And this neat little store just wins me over. It contains a universe within. The variety, the color, the diversity of books on offer. I wanted three books in the first minute (contrast this with one in ten minutes at the airport bookstore). It was just awesome. it was as much meant to educate, inspire, with all the great ones lined up book after book, such that even if you disturb one book, you didn't know how to put it back...treasure trove.
It was a small lunch break at Hobart...I'll be there soon. Hopefully, I'll buy more, and more than that, be inspired more.
Book stores influence how people read. You offer thrillers, quick reads only, they read those only. You expose them to the subtleties, the intensities, the depth of thought, the pleasure that only the great ones can provide....they read that, and then want more of that. In a small space, this book store had poetry, short stories, science, all the Nobel winners, all the visiting authors, a variety of titles from the literary ones, and not just the top two of each...sometimes not even the top two, but the rest, even books from Barthelme's list. I don't know how one does that in online book store. I have all the top 100 lists, the barthelme list, the DFW list running in my mind, but online is not a stacked little universe of wonderful titles tightly packed. I want to discover, and be surprised and 'stumble on' as well, and not just get what I want...but probably get what I don't know I want. And when I see a book store with so much in it, I find myself in my little heaven.
Such bookstores are like faith keepers...they are like churches and temples, one can't let them go. Even if they don't make money. They make people.