Having just finished reading Lewis Buzbee’s memoir and tribute to / history of bookstores, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (review forthcoming), I couldn’t resist stepping in to the large new/used independent bookstore when I was downtown yesterday evening – and coming out of it with four books.
First of all, the bookstore: it’s a really wonderful bookstore, inside an old building with many small rooms and wooden chairs in each section. The fiction section is in what used to be a ballroom, and the second floor has two slightly different levels with a narrow, sloped-roof passage-way between them. It carries both new and used books, and one of my favorite sections is the newly arrived used book section near the front. Overall, the bookstore has a cozy, friendly feeling and I browsed there for over an hour last night.
I do not buy books that often; I will often browse in a bookstore without purchasing anything. I am very cautious about what I buy – I think about and probably over-analyze whether a book is worth spending money on or whether I should just get it at the library. In fact, I sometimes come away from a bookstore with new ideas of books to look for at the library. However, last night I was clearly in a book-buying mood and these books just jumped out at me. All of them were used or discounted, and I didn’t think that hard about whether to buy them or not; it just felt right to do so.
One of the books, The Third Side: Why We Fight and How We Can Stop, by William Ury, I think really did jump out at me; that is, I’m sure I noticed it only because I had just this week been looking at a website based on the book, thirdside.org. Another one, The Little Book of Restorative Justice, by Howard Zehr, I think caught my attention for a similar reason: I have been looking at a website related to restorative justice recently as well. The other two are both by Oriah, expansions on two of her poems: The Invitation and The Call. I read the poem The Invitation several years ago and was quite moved by it, so I felt that work by her would be a worthy purchase. I think the books also appealed to me due to their beautiful covers (which are not the same as the covers on the Amazon links; the covers I got are the ones on this page).
I observed two things about my approach to bookstores and book-buying versus libraries. For one thing, I noticed that I buy non-fiction more frequently than fiction. I probably read about equal amounts of fiction and non-fiction, but for some reason I am not as likely to buy fiction. I think perhaps I feel that fiction is more of a gamble, especially if it is a title I have never heard of. I may love the book or I may be totally bored by it; if it’s from the library it doesn’t matter. With non-fiction, I can browse amongst the topics I know interest me, and I think I am more likely to take a chance because I think of non-fiction as something that can be kept around as a reference. I like to be surrounded by books on the issues and fields that most interest me. The funny thing is, I do not think I am that much more likely to re-read a non-fiction book than a fiction one; perhaps even less so. Perhaps I am over-analyzing this particular buying pattern, but it does intrigue me.
The other thing I noticed (and this may actually influence the non-fiction versus fiction pattern) is that I am in a different frame of mind in a bookstore than when in a library (besides the obvious one that I am looking to buy rather than borrow). I usually only go to a library when I am actively looking for something to read, and thus I am looking explicitly for books that I am in the mood for right then. On the other hand, when I go to a bookstore I usually have a stack of books I am currently interested in from the library sitting at home, so I am not necessarily looking for something to read right then, but rather something that I know I will be interested in at some point in the future. I think this does influence the fact that I buy more non-fiction than fiction, because it is easier to predict what sort of non-fiction I will be interested in. For fiction, I decide what to read very much in the moment of looking for something to read next, whereas for non-fiction I have a good general sense of the topics I am interested in. Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of fiction books that I could buy now and still be interested in in the future. So in the end there is probably not much logic to this pattern.
In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed my bookstore browsing and purchasing last night!