I do things intuitively. I make decisions intuitively.
Which B&B to stay in on a holiday? I go with my gut feeling.
Which books should sit together on a shelf? Gut feeling.
I use my intuition to feel around for the right words in my writing.
Which movie to watch? Well, ok, that depends on who is starring in it, but after that, I go with the feeling I get about the storyline. Either I’m interested and it pulls me in, or I’m not. I can’t really explain it rationally.
I approach buying books in the same way.
There are two ways I shop for books. One, my favourite – if I have the time – is to spend hours perusing an old, independently-run bookshop. The kind that doesn’t have any apparent rhyme or reason to how the books are stacked. I like to contemplate the unending piles until the order makes itself known. Because there always is an order somewhere in there. Someone did put those books up on the shelves and they had some kind of system for doing it. Usually.
My favourite of these bookstores, of course, is Shakespeare and Company in Paris. I could spend days in there.
While I am discerning the underlying system, I let my hand trail along the spines. The aesthetic of shelves upon shelves of books, floor to ceiling, covering every wall and every surface is one that calms and soothes me. Especially if they are old books, first editions and the like. The more books, the more surfaces they cover, the better.
In this solitary ceremony, this rite, I find I am drawn instinctively to particular books. Books that shine from within. Books that glimmer. It is almost mystical. I can’t say what it is about each book that calls to me, but I listen.
Once I have picked up a book, I consider the cover, the synopsis, I read the first page and another, somewhere in the middle. And then I make my decision.
Contrast my meaningful exercise with the other way I select books. It is the complete opposite, and yet there remain some vestiges of the intuitive in this scenario.
I have a system.
Step one is to seek a recommendation from a friend of mine. She is my Oracle of Books. She has never steered me wrong. Not once. All my favourite books have been the ones that she recommended to me.
If I don’t have a recommendation from her, I begin with Amazon. I look up a book I particularly love and peruse the resulting recommendations. Then, I Google the book and read the reviews, longer summaries, and if available, the author’s blog. Now that I have a GoodReads account, I look through the reviews there, too. Sometimes I begin by Googling an author I have enjoyed in the past, but that doesn’t always mean I will enjoy their other books.
The actual decision to read or not to read still comes down to intuition, albeit a more informed intuition in this case.
When I have decided that I do indeed want to read a book, I first check to see if the book is available at my local library. If it is, I usually take it out there. Sometimes, if I really want to read it and it is not in the library system, I will buy it from one of the online booksellers, and have it delivered right into my hot little hands without delay.
There is obviously less magic to this way of choosing a book, and it is not necessarily more effective than a day of perusing a lovely, old bookshop.
But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and if I find myself without a book, I fling myself headlong into a desperate search for one.
One final point. E-readers. I hate them. I’ve tried them, because I thought it would be easier to read at night from something that comes with its own light source. But no. I like the smell of books, the feeling of books, being able to see the whole book all at once…
…and there’s something else I can’t quite put my finger on. A sort of connection to the book. A feeling deep down that I don’t feel when I’m reading on an iPad or iPhone.
A sort of innate knowledge and perceptivity. I don’t know how else to describe it, except to say that it is intuitive.
- The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (midwestbooks.wordpress.com)
- Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (inkposts.com)
- Woolfson &Tay and loving independent bookshops (materialwhirl.wordpress.com)
- The Lion, the Witch and the Bookshop. (boooksarepeopletoo.wordpress.com)
- What’s in My Book Bag… (thescribbleemporium.wordpress.com)
- Shakespeare and Company Bookshop. (whataloadofsit.wordpress.com)
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