I absolutely love book sales. I always get so excited when I see the tables set up laden with books and I can’t wait to start digging through those boxes! It occurred to me this past week that there’s another aspect of the book sale that I find interesting: there are no preconceived notions acting as a barrier between me and the books.
While I obviously love libraries I think it’s an interesting thought that they may influence our choice in books. For example, in my current library they use book stickers to help readers filter through the books on the shelves. These stickers cover essentially every genre, from mystery to romance to fantasy. But I’ve often wondered if those stickers actually stop people from picking up a book and reading the description. If a reader assumes “I don’t like fantasy” then they may skip over every book with a fantasy sticker, eliminating the chance of them discovering a book or author that they really enjoy. By trying to make the books more accessible, libraries may influence our decisions and eliminate the possibility of that chance read.
You also can’t get away from these labels on the internet. When reading a book review blog or looking up a book on Goodreads, people (including me!) have invariably categorized the books for us, tagging or sorting the books so that we may better understand what the book is about. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve written before about how much I love tags and how useful they can be when searching for new books. But I think it’s hard to escape these labels, and I have definitely had that moment when I think a book sounds good and then I realize it’s labelled “mystery” or “thriller” and I think, do I really want to read this book?
Labelling, tagging or sorting is incredibly helpful as we look through books and try to choose ones that we want. Yet as I was shopping the book sale, I couldn’t help but enjoy the lack of them. There were several large tables just labeled “fiction.” That was it. Other than that, I was free to dig through boxes and see what kind of reads piqued my interest. By going by just the cover and book description and not knowing what categories the book fell into, I felt like I was opening myself up to that chance read, and finding something that I truly enjoy. Sometimes it’s good to eliminate all of the labels that exist, and just judge the book by what you have in front of you: the book itself.
Here’s what I picked up from the book sale. I can’t wait to read these!
People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks
In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding – an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair – she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.
Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight
Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is shocked when her daughter’s exclusive Brooklyn private school calls to tell her that Amelia—her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old—has been caught cheating. But when Kate arrives at Grace Hall, she’s blindsided by far more devastating news: Amelia is dead. Despondent, she’s jumped from the school’s roof. At least that’s what Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. It’s what she believes, too, until she gets the anonymous text: Amelia didn’t jump. Now, Kate is going to find the truth—no matter where it leads. Sifting through Amelia’s e-mails, text messages, and Facebook posts, Kate reconstructs the pieces of her daughter’s life and the people in it, uncovering why she was on Grace Hall’s roof that day—and how she died.
The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood
In a world driven by shadowy, corrupt corporations and the uncontrolled development of new, gene-spliced life forms, a man-made pandemic occurs, obliterating human life. Two people find they have unexpectedly survived: Ren, a young dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails (the cleanest dirty girls in town), and Toby, solitary and determined, who has barricaded herself inside a luxurious spa, watching and waiting. The women have to decide on their next move–they can’t stay hidden forever. But is anyone else out there?