Books have a strange way of ending up on my shelf. There are writers I like and genres I enjoy, but those two elements aren’t at the core of what decides whether a book comes home with me. Instead of letting the mass market machine choose everything I read, I rely on something much more unconventional: The Book Vibe.
Books are quite a bit like people. They have personalities, distinct voices, and a story to tell. Second hand books in particular have a history that often includes some pretty heavy baggage. With their covers cracked and worn they remind me of an old man I often see sitting in the back corner at my favorite coffee shop. I wonder where he’s been what he’s seen in his long life. For some reason, he always stands out amid the throngs of other people that come and go. A lone book in a sea of thousands grabs my attention in much the same way.
Sometimes a book will catch my eye because the cover is bent in a strange way or the name of the author sounds like someone I’d like to know. The pull is so strong, I can’t resist for fear I’ll never see it again. Books aren’t just something to read as each one is an experience that often changes my perspective. When they call out to me, I simply must listen.
Touch creates an even stronger connection. While hovering over a bargain table or scanning a shelf above my head, I’ll run my fingertips over the binding of each book. A combination of chance and fate ignite a little jolt that travels all the way up my arm. The sensation tingles at first and then explodes into an instinctive surge. Before I know it the book is off the shelf and in my hands. The cover is open and I start reading straight away. We get acquainted so quickly its as if we’ve been friends for far longer than a few seconds.
I’m well aware that this is all probably in my head and that’s fine. Books are a personal experience, which makes how I find them a wholly individual process. I’m also inclined to argue that my book vibe is never wrong. It works in my local bookshop as well as it does in Prague or Shanghai. Given its stellar track record, I trust the vibe over a bestseller’s list any day.
The Book Vibe is just one more reason why people tend to classify me in the weird category, but I’d rather be an oddity than be closed off to any sort of possibility. Fate always pushes us towards exactly what we need. Whether it be a book, a person, or a place, there is a reason behind every encounter.
Below is a list of selected books I’ve discovered with The Book Vibe. Each one has a story and I thought I’d share how we got together. I have a relationship with every book I read, for I’ve found they are incredibly loyal friends that are always very wise.
On a trip to Borders, I saw it out of the corner of my eye. At first I walked away, but quickly turned around. The cover, which depicts men in bird masks, sent my imagination into a tailspin of curiosity. It remains one of my favorite reads over the last few years.
While in Prague, I visited The Globe (an expat bookshop) and found this one by fingertip. The jolt was enormous and right on target. I’ve since read everything by Klima and he has become a writer I greatly admire. No one taps the subtle elements of humanity with as delicate a hand as Klima.
These two sat side by side on a shelf at Half-Price Books. The vibe gave me a two-for-one deal! I’d never heard of either author and I’m now grateful to know their writing. Both are able to tap into raw human emotion with very different points of view, but the with same attention to detail. To this day these two books sit together on my shelf.
Another Half-Price Books find. I was scanning another shelf when all of the sudden I looked up and locked eyes on the author’s name. Salter’s book of short stories seemed like a pretty far departure from my normal reading pattern, but the vibe was right. This book inspired me to start writing short stories.
This one came from a large used book sale. My fingers brushed over it once and that was all I needed to know. Buechner showed me the beauty of a novella, and I have yet to read one I’ve enjoyed more than his short, but very moving story.
This book haunted me for weeks. I first spotted it on a side table at Barnes & Noble. A slight budget issue kept me staring at it rather than buying for so long I thought I was going to go crazy (well, more so than usual). The book ended up being one of the most fun historical fiction/fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time. It totally renewed my faith that historical fiction can play in the realm of magic and fantasy.
It was sitting on the Reading Group table at Barnes & Noble and was clearly out of place. Someone had just flung it there, too lazy to put it back in its proper place. I picked it up to put it away (I go to this book store so often, I know the layout just as well as the employees) and found I couldn’t let it go. Written in easy-going prose, this book reminded me that simple stories are often the best and miracles happen when you least expect them.
Do you have a book vibe story? I’d love to hear it! 🙂