Earlier this week I was invited to accompany my dad to Barnes and Noble to look for a specific book he was interested in. While I am a traditional reader who becomes excitable about the prospect of going to a bookstore, but I am of two minds about it. The negative feelings are not because I become overwhelmed by the number of titles that I want to purchase, or because I find the commercialism to be indigestible. I get torn because I feel guilt that I don’t want to buy any of those books. There’s a strong sense of guilt because I know that I won’t give a proper home to anyone, but I will write down a laundry list of titles that I will go home and purchase for my Kindle. So despite my neurotic approach to bookstores, I do have a specific approach to how I navigate a Barnes and Noble.
Phase One: Entering the Building
Allow your eyes to drink in all the New Releases, Hardcovers, and Staff Recommendations. They’re new, they’re sparkly, and they’re enticing. It reminds me that while only about 10% of those titles that blast your senses as you first enter the bookstore are going to end up on my To-Be-Read list, new ideas are always flowing. Keeping the proverbial mind going by thinking/rethinking thoughts and solutions equates to a promising future (and yes, that does include the Romance and Sci-Fiction titles, not just nonfiction).
Phase Two: Sales Baby!
Typically, Barnes and Noble will have a section of the store that will feature all the Sales books. These aren’t necessarily “bad” or “boring” titles. Most of the time, this section will be located relatively close to the New Releases. I like to go through these books, but not all the genres. I will avoid the cookbooks and other nonfiction sales titles because 1) I don’t cook and definitely not based on a discounted pile that tend to include recipes with ingredients I can’t pronounce, and 2) I’ve got all the WWII and automobile knowledge I’ll need for a lifetime already. I will go directly to the fiction section for the sales. I will stock up my classroom’s bookshelf in this section, and there are always diamonds in the rough if you spend the time to look for them.
Phase Three: Criterion Tables
These tables are like breadcrumbs that lead you to the back of the Barnes and Noble, and will help you find your way (usually with arms fully loaded) back to the cash registers. I like to look through these books because I tend to follow certain themes in my reading, and when I’m in the mood for a “beach read,” I don’t want to have to hunt-and-peck through the Fiction shelves and hope that I locate a properly dressed, neon pink and yellow book cover that will satisfy my needs. The helpful employees have taken the time to arrange a cluster of books that cut down on my shopping time (Gifts for Grads, Dads, Moms, Husbands Obsessed with Lord of the Rings) or help me complete a “If you liked ________, then read __________” puzzles.
P.S. Sometimes these little nuggets will offer “Buy 2 Get 3rd Free” discounts. But choose wisely friends, choose wisely.
Phase Four: The Leftovers
There are certain sections of any bookstore that I won’t travel to. This includes: Children’s Books, Technology, Self-Help, Humor, and Magazines. All the remaining genres are up for grabs.
Conclusion: For me, a trip to the bookstore is the equivalent to doing an initial search for scholarly articles for a college midterm paper. You have your general purpose, but you must first scratch the surface of many subtopics before you can decide, with confidence, which thesis you’re going to pursue. Thankfully, I’ve learned that you don’t have to purchase each book you want to eventually read; this is the equivalent of printing out a copy of each 40+ page article from JSTOR. I feel accomplished with a list of titles to file away for a rainy day.