One of the few things that I miss about England is book stores. Obviously there are plenty of them here in Germany but they are full of books in German. Most have English sections but there is not much choice and what little there is, is limited to what happens to be popular at the time.
There were not that many places that I felt comfortable back in England but book stores always made me feel at ease (unless it was Christmas and then they were chocker block with people buying books that had been churned out specifically for that purpose). There is something calming about being surrounded by all that adventure, history, information, romance, crime, death, life, none of which can affect me in any way unless I choose to open the pages.
Anyway, the best part about book stores is that they sell books, which meant that when I left I would have a new treasure or two. Now, I am a visual person first and foremost, so my first plan of attack would be to wander about until something caught my eye. It might be the font of the text along the spine or the design of the cover, maybe even the colour of the page edges. Next would be to read the synopsis on the back cover (unless it was covered by the price tag. Why in the name of sanity, anyone that worked in a book store would cover this with a price tag is beyond me. Surely people that work in book stores, do so because they like books themselves. Do they choose books without having any idea of what the book is about? Madness!). If my interest was tickled further by this I would then look at any reviews that might be included and who they were written by.
Most of the reviews would be taken with a pinch of salt, as they are only there to make you think the book is better than it probably is. Sometimes though, there would be a review from an author that I liked or would be written in such a way that I could tell that it was written honestly, not just because it was on their reading list for that week. Now would come a flick through the pages, to see if the format worked for me. Does it have chapters? Are the chapters just numbered or titled? Are there any illustrations? (this can be a good or bad thing) What kind of paper is it written on. Are there any funky little symbols in the corner of each page? You know, stuff like that.
One thing I hardly ever did was look at the information about the author. This could put me off just as quickly as seeing a waiter picking his nose in a restaurant, just as you are sitting down at your table. I am the same with music. I don’t like to know anything about the band or artist that makes the music. I learned this lesson with Oasis. I used to love their music until they got famous and then they turned into a couple of complete plonkers and now whenever I hear anything they produce it just makes me want to slap them with a cod fish.
The last test would be the “reading of the first page” test. I need to be caught in the books tractor beam from the first page or I will escape. I can’t stand books that after getting to page 250, I am still waiting for something to happen. What I want is to read 250 words and feel as though my eye balls are being sucked into the pages…sloop! (That was the sound my eye balls would make, in case you were wondering)
Of course I am English so I am always worried about how green the grass is over the fence and if there are swings and funky climbing frames on it. This meant that I would end up having to choose between 5 or 6 books and would usually end up leaving with more than I could probably afford. In short, choosing books was more fun than you can shake a stick at and I shake a pretty mean stick, let me tell you.
Believe it or not there is actually a point to all this and that is that I am now slowly becoming addicted to Amazon.co.uk. A couple of days ago I spent a good hour or so doing the virtual version of what I used to do in stores. It’s not the same of course and it’s nowhere near as much fun. But… There is new fun to be had and new pleasures to swim in. After a couple of days waiting, a package arrives with brand new books inside. They are usually in pristine condition and may have not even been opened before.
As I tear open the brown package that new book smell smacks me in the nose and I get to see the actual 3 dimensional book for the first time. Now I can do all of the things that I did in the store but in the comfort of my own home. Delicious. It’s a bit of a bugger when a book turns out to be rubbish but buying two or three at a time normally ensures that the joys outweigh the disappointments.
Today a package came for me with the first volume of Frank Millers “Sin city” and my second book by Markus Zusak, “I am the messenger”. So once I have written this I will be eating pistachio’s and drinking chocolate milkshake, while getting stuck in to some serious book worshipping.
What about you guys? How do you chose new books? Tell me all your secrets so that I can add some new tricks to my trade