Can it really be that hard to just go into a shop like a normal person and just pick up a book? I suspect most of you, like me have their own idiosyncracies when it comes to choosing which book you fancy buying.
First off, I refuse to internet shop as I don’t trust technology and have a near obsessional worry about broken spines and creases etc. Living in a market town you would assume we may at least have one decent market stall but alas no.
The closest bookshop within easy reach is probably Waterstones (having bought everything of quality WH Smiths had to offer, which after the Classics section doesn’t leave a lot to choose from), in Nottingham, although getting increasingly commercial these days, I had to wait for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to die to get his book The Gulag Archipelago which I knew would be in stock to cash in on his memory. Cynical yes but still they have to make a profit at the end of the day I guess.
To start with I write a list of books I want, usually things added recently to the wish list or ones that have been on there for ages, then I plan my route through each floor (always missing the ground floor out to begin with) having memorised the layout long ago, each floor is sub categorised into genre, then subdivided again to an A-Z list of author or period/country for history etc.
It takes me forty minutes to travel on the bus and I spend no more than half an hour in Nottingham as I hate shopping, so in all 15 minutes making my purchases. After hunting through the list, if I have four books or less I will always head finally to the ground floor and seek out my ‘fall back’ authors: Calvino, Marquez, Remarche, Nemirovsky, Susan Hill and Orwell as their writing is of such a standard that I know I will be able to pick up a fantastic piece of literature from them. Fall back author is perhaps the wrong term on reflection.
It’s worth mentioning that as well as checking the spines and corners of the book and then running my fingers all over the cover to feel for creases, I also flick through the pages looking for anomalies, as I once had a copy of 2001: A Space odyssey that had pages 46-122 repeated twice and a lack of pages 123- 198. I couldn’t cope with that again.
If I forget my list I can usually be seen standing in the Art section flapping my arms because I can’t remember what I want and the only artist I ever want to buy a book on is never there (Caspar David Friedrich), fantastic fiction.com doesn’t work on my phone and Amazon claims I have no wishlist so those options are always out. Eventually I am reduced to flitting between all the floors looking like a serious shoplifter.
Luckily second hand bookshops are a more placid affair without all the military precision. I am looking to be surprised by books I have never heard of or never expected to see, so I will spend ages routing through the piles. The older and more obscure the better, and that musty scent really should be bottled, i’d buy it.
Am I alone in my ways or does everyone else have certain ways of picking books? My friends think i’m crazy for doing it this way so hopefully i’m not alone. Next time I shall relate to you how I actually choose which book to read off of my to read pile and that’s probably not a normal way either…