I can’t spend less than an hour in a bookstore. Ask anyone who’s been to Lawrence with me. On Massachusetts Street, there’s an overabundance of small bookstores absolutely stuffed with old books, and it can take me a whole day to work through all of them.
A good book can only come from a good bookstore. Unsure of whether or not your bookstore is high quality? Everyone has their own taste- in coffee, men and bookstores- but for me, the perfect bookstore has to be small and dimly-lit, only selling used books and containing at least one cat.
As far as books go, I actually don’t normally pick a book for its contents. I am completely guilty of choosing most books by their covers and a couple other standards:
1.) Prettiness. I love beautiful books. In fact, the last four months of my life have been spent searching for an ornate, unabridged copy of “Les Miserables”, despite the fact that such an item would cost upward of $70. The books I typically buy aren’t collector’s edition, but I ove beautiful cover art.
The best example I have of this is “The Kitchen God’s Wife.” I had never heard of the title or the author before. It was leaned up against “Eclipse.” I would never have touched it if I hadn’t noticed the dark blue binding and golden lettering on the spine.
Once I caught a glimpse of the beautiful cover, which was intricately detailed with fruits, tea kettles and Chinese characters, I knew I had to at least give it a shot. I definitely regretted the decision when I came close to full on, end-of- “Titanic” sobs during English when I finished the book. And I definitely learned a lesson- always, always judge a book by its cover, not the books around it.
2.) Texture. Whoever says that books’ bindings should not be broken is a liar. Broken bindings are the main reason that I only shop for used books. This is one of the more odd requirements that I have for books, but I like it when the pages feel soft and worn when I flip them. I don’t read hard-covers because they can’t reach this level of worn-down softness.
It’s a hard quality to describe, but it was the only reason that I bought “The Old Curiosity Shop” by Charles Dickens, one of his more obscure works. The book was over 700 pages, but the pages were extremely thin and the binding was so worn that the covers could hardly stay shut. I forced myself to read it, despite a depressing plot and questionable grammar, purely because of how nice the pages felt.
3.) Smell. I’ve noticed that my blogs have had a nearly consistent theme and pattern so far: I expose a dorky character trait and then spend the rest of the blog attempting to defend how cool I really, truly am. You won’t be disappointed- the dork in me is dying to come out.
I have a confession to make: I am a book-smeller.
Yes, a book smeller. Definition: a person who loves books so much that they relish in that musty smell of ink and glue.
This might sound dorky and downright weird, but I must defend myself- it isn’t that weird. Who hasn’t flipped the pages of a book to see how it smells? Again, this is a hard quality to define, but it’s a main factor in the purchase of a book. This is a fine line to walk, because the pages need to smell musty without reminding me of a disgusting basement.
As you can probably tell, basing every book purchasing decision off of these three requirements causes my visits to bookstores to be long. Very long. It also causes me to look like a bit of a freak when I sneak whiffs of ink-and-glue smells from the pages every so often. But these tactics of choosing have brought me to many good reads, from “The Dollmaker” to “Unseen Academicals.”
I’m never going to change my ways. So next time you see me or someone like me in a bookstore, fondling the pages and sneaking sniffs of that glorious book smell, remember the effectiveness of this approach. Don’t judge. Embrace it. Try it out. Maybe you’ll find an unexpected read for yourself.