Monday, December 21, 2015

I'd rather do it myself

I wouldn't think of buying books at random, without my bookseller's recommendation, no matter how good the reviews may be.
Isabel Allende, My Bookstore

Isabel Allende
The novelist Isabel Allende, one of dozens of writers who tell about their favorite bookstores in My Bookstore, surprises me. Never buy a book unless one particular bookseller recommends it? How is this even possible, let alone a good idea?

Others contributors to this book express confidence in the recommendations of their favorite booksellers. Novelist Angela David-Gardner writes, "Nancy (Olson) has a genius for matching books and readers. People often ask her, 'What should I read?' She knows her regular customers well enough that she can usually make an immediate suggestion." Well, OK, but isn't that what one might expect from someone who runs a small, independent bookstore? It may be the one clear advantage independent stores have over Barnes & Noble. Yet a suggestion or a recommendation is a long way from never buying a book without someone's suggestion or recommendation. What about whims, impulses, persuasive reviews, comments by friends or simply the fact that if you liked one Isabel Allende novel you might want to read another?

Allende's dependency on her bookseller would, it seems to me, take most of the fun out of shopping for books. I enjoy the search. When you browse the shelves and tables of bookstores, you never know what you might find. And rather than buying exclusively from one bookseller and one bookstore, I enjoy making the rounds to favorite stores, as well as discovering new ones.

I admit something about Allende's trusting relationship with her bookseller appeals to me. I don't recall ever having a close relationship with any bookseller, despite the many hours I spend in bookstores. I envy the fact that someone knows her well enough to know what books may interest her. Even so, my tastes are so diverse that I don't believe I could trust anyone to select my books for me. I wouldn't want someone else to order for me in a restaurant. Why would I want that in a bookstore?

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