Friday, October 9, 2009

Divinipotent About Buying Books

“A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.”
~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

People who write are people who began an affair with books at a tender age. In Divinipotent Daily's case, Peter Pan led to a world of temptations, starting with the leather bound, gold-embossed classics on her parents' shelves. Those fancy-dressed books begged to be handled. But then, so did the scruffy and faded, well-read collections of Nancy Drew, the Curlytops and the Bobbsey Twins that had belonged to Divinipotent's older sisters.

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Books at home lead to books at school, in the public library and in stores. In each of these places, the browser can touch the paper, inhale the ink, measure the heft, study the cover front and back, peruse the flyleaf, consider the author's bio and photo and finally crack the book open and read a little before making a decision.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
~ Jorge Luis Borges

What a luxury this book-browsing process would seem to an early collector like Alexander the Great; according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, his Museum and Serapeum at Alexandria held between 200,000 to 700,000 papyrus rolls; those papyri not acquired from others would have been handmade-to-order by scribes. Even in first century Rome, where a well-off citizen could go to a scriptorium and hire a scribe to copy a book, readers needed to know what they wanted to read ahead of time.

"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."
~ Jerry Seinfeld

Today, of course, a greater and greater share of book sales happen online. While convenient, the online process rules out the pleasures of handling, inhaling, measuring and perusing in advance. As in ancient Rome or Alexandria, we must know what we want before placing our order.

Online booksellers are happy to tout the latest big books from big-name writers and publishers, but a reader in search of something new and different is faced with a quandary. One can, as Divinipotent Daily has done, make lists of titles discovered in book reviews or recommended by friends. But this does not replace the pleasure of the serendipitous find.

“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, 'Where's the self-help section?' She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.”
~ George Carlin

Happily, book-loving online entrepreneurs have devised some ways to help. Flashlight Worthy is a Web site dedicated to book lists and recommendations contributed by avid readers (including Divinipotent Daily). Lists featured on the home page right now include "Six Children's Books Grownups Will Love," "What New Yorkers Read on the Subway," "Books Narrated by Killers," "Teacher Memoirs" and many more. While not the same as visiting a library or bookstore, Flashlight Worthy's 305-and-counting lists and thousands of individual book reviews allow a browser to discover a new title, author or genre before making the commitment to buy.

Another fun place to find new books is Goodreads. Here, members (it's free) share their own reviews with friends and discover what books their friends have read and liked (or not). Whenever a friend adds a new title, Goodreads sends out an update. Members can also browse lists and read reviews by topic.

Divinipotent Daily encourages everyone to keep stocking their little brain attics with books and to support independent booksellers, who provide both the advice and exotic flavors that make reading exciting.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

1 comment:

  1. Michele-

    Thanks so much for the generous comments about my website -- Flashlight Worthy! I have no idea if you'd be interested, but I have a blog widget that fits neatly into the right side of your blog. Take a look:

    It's obviously book-oriented, not all that divinipotent-y, but who knows? You might like it.

    Anyway, thanks for all the kind words.

    Peter (The guy who runs Flashlight Worthy)