Book Sales and Taking Chances

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

People of the BookIn 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

reconstructing ameliaLitigation 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

Year of the FloodIn 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?

 

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Libraries: More Than A Warehouse

The Search For The Classics

Over the past couple of years I’ve become a little tired of new movies. Every time I get excited about a movie, I go to the theatre and end up being disappointed. I find that I’m underwhelmed by too many explosions, car chases, or gun fights with no plot to back them up.

I recently lamented about this problem to my father, and announced that I wanted to explore old movies. My father was all too eager for this idea, and gave me a list of 54 movies to “get me started.”

I really wanted to get a physical copy of each of these films because I’m a big fan of special features, especially the director’s commentary. Thus, I went to the library’s website and searched for each of the films. I found an astounding 52 of the 54 movies available in the library system.

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that fact: 52 out of 54 movies were available to me free of charge.

What was interesting about this experience was that I was surprised that so many movies were available to me, and I am trying to figure out why.

The Warehouse

I’ve often heard the statement that a library is “nothing better than a warehouse of books,” sitting full of dusty old tomes that are never used. I understand why people might say this: just saying the word “library” brings to mind images of rooms filled with books.

Yet it’s fairly often that when I search for an item in the catalogue, I’m surprised to find it available. And when I’m asked by friends or family where I got a particular book/movie/audio and I tell them the library, they’re surprised.

There seems to be this strange double standard for what a “library” really is. Although the word seems to represent a large store of materials, there also seems to be the expectation that nothing will be available.

An Information Source

Regardless of what is actually stored within its walls, libraries are a source of information. Even if they don’t have an item on hand, a function of the library is to be able to get it for their patron – whether bringing it from another branch, or even loaning it from a different library system entirely. Libraries can get all forms of information, including books, movies, cds, or electronic resources.

Yes, traditionally, libraries were large warehouses for books, where scholars would go to do research. But libraries have become so much more than that now. Sometimes people (including me!) need to be reminded that libraries are amazing information sources, and can provide us with whatever information we may want or need.