But anyway, that’s not what this post is about. Last week, Steph (Steph & Tony Investigate) posted a review of You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chanon. In the review, she included this story about how she came to buy the book:
As you know, 2011 is my year of reading from my own shelves, so I figured the best way to kick things off would be to pick up the book that I has possibly lingered on those shelves for the longest. I think I’ve owned You Remind Me of Me for at least five years, though it certainly feels like longer. I remember picking it up in hardback off of a remainder table at the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, and I’m sure the sticker proclaiming it “seulement $9.99” was a large incentive … I’m sure the premise of intermixed storylines of seemingly unrelated characters that eventually unite into a meaningful and breathtaking whole played some part, but dollars to donuts it was the price that really sealed the deal for me.
I recognized myself, at least a former version of myself, in this story — the kind of girl that goes into used bookstores or clearance sections not really looking for anything, just exploring what is there. I loved both the feeling of finding a book I’ve wanted for awhile unexpectedly, or picking up something I didn’t even know I wanted to read. I did the same thing at the library. I never had books on hold for me, I simply went and wandered the stacks and came out with a pile of books to explore when I got home.
In both of those places, there was this sense of serendipity in finding an unexpected treasure, a book I would have never know about if I didn’t happen to pick it up in that time and that place.
I am most certainly not that kind of girl anymore, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
On the one hand, a lot of the books you’re going to find in the $1 bins at a bookstore are there for a reason — the store had to many copies, it didn’t sell, or it just isn’t very good. I probably couldn’t count the number of cheap books I’ve bought, considered reading, and then ended up giving away or selling back. I wish I’d kept track, since I’m sure the waste of money on things I never used would be sobering and kick my nostalgia for serendipitous reading in the butt.
But on the other hand, isn’t it sort of exhausting to walk into a bookstore and have a constant running commentary of, “Oh, I read a review of that!” or “Oh, So-and-So blogger told me that was great!” running through your brain? Don’t get me wrong — I love reading reviews and adding more books to my potential to-read list, but you guys are always in my head!
In the midst of reading the five nonfiction picks for the Indie Lit Awards — which are all awesome, and I do not regret a single one — and a series of scheduled books for review, I’m feeling this deep nostalgia for going back to being the kind of person that explored more, that went into books as a blank slate, that bought books she didn’t know anything about just because of the unknown awesome they might hold.
I went to the library earlier this week to pick up two books on hold and seriously contemplated going up to the second floor and just wandering the fiction section. But I didn’t — I was running late to make dinner, and, given my recent library book behavior, I was pretty confident whatever I checked out would just get returned three weeks from now unread because it got bumped for books that were “more important” or that I was more confident I’d love reading because I know something about them already.
I love knowing about the books I choose, and knowing that I can recommend books to people I care about because of all the good books I read about every day. But all that knowing about books is slowly taking away the space in my reading life I used to devote to books that would be complete surprises. I’m left wondering whatever happened to my serendipity?
Am I the only one who misses serendipitous reading? Was that ever important to you? What ways to you bring more unexpected or unknown books into your reading life?