The Book Vibe


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.

Lightboxes by Shane Jones

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.

No Saints or Angels by Ivan Klima

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.

Crazy by Benjamin Lebert and Ghost by Alan Lightman

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.

Last Night by James Salter

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.

The Storm by Frederick Buechner

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.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

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.

The Miracles of Santo Fico by D.L. Smith

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! 🙂

c.b. 2011


11 thoughts on “The Book Vibe

  1. It’s not in your head and you are not weird (either that or it’s just in my head too and I’m weird along with you!) 🙂 – I totally get the book vibe too. Do you ever walk away from a book that seemed to be calling to you and get frantic to return to it a moment later? Like if you don’t grab it you’ll miss something that is going to be so important in your life? Happens to me so often…
    My favorite book vibe story is from when I was bored one afternoon, wandering the local bookstore bargains. I had recently found out about my father’s very rare degenerative disease, and was feeling a little lost. In the paperback bargains a book gave me a vibe – the color called to me, the picture on the cover, just something about it. I had never heard of the book or the author, but decided to purchase it anyway. Days later when I began reading, I found one of the main characters in the story had a spouse who was suffering from the exact degenerative disease that my father is… you can imagine how overwhelmed I was! But the book was such a gift; it helped me understand the disease and realize how my mother must feel, struggling with it all too. It was a hard book to read, but I’m so thankful I found it! (Flight Lessons by Patricia Gaffney)


    • Oh, that gave me goosebumps! How amazing that you should find that book at that precise moment. I can only imagine how emotional that whole experience was and I’m glad you had something to help through such a difficult time. Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂

      I can totally relate to that “frantic” feeling that comes from leaving a book once the vibe is triggered. I either have to buy it or go home thinking about it all night.

      The BooK Vibe actually struck last night! This time is was for a book of collected poems by Emily Dickinson. I must have walked past this book a million times over the years and never gave it a second glance. I guess the timing wasn’t right until now. 🙂


  2. Yes, always trust the Book Vibe. Look at the great adventures it has taken you on so far! Books – friends, teachers, truth-tellers, muses – magic. It’s all magical I say.


    • Ever since I was a little girl, I believed books were magic. Nothing else can make your imagination go so wild with new people, places, and adventures. I’m so thankful I have a book vibe that leads me to wherever the magic is hiding. 🙂


  3. Work is crazy but I wanted to respond to the Book Vibe. The last book that physically called out to me was the photographic catalog from the Ashes and Snow exhibition. The book is hand-made, covered in leather with a cord and bead closure. The size is about five inches by eight inches. The photographs are beautiful and serene. The show was absolutely amazing with photos, film, letters, and an unusual traveling museum structure. I saw it in 2006 in Santa Monica, CA but it is traveling around the world. More recently, I find a book or author via the web, blogs, or conversations and then I order it from my library. This happened with Kate di Camillo, a middle grade author. I’ve read three of her books this past month and have two more to pick up at the library. Her writing is poetic and has some magic to it. Great topic C.B.


    • The leather book you described sounds absolutely beautiful – no wonder it called to you. I’m going to look up the Ashes and Snow exhibition as you have piqued my curiosity. 🙂

      The internet! I knew I was forgetting a realm of book buying! Like you, I have found a number of great writers via the internet – both bestsellers and indies. A good book is a good book no matter where you find it! I’m off to amazon to check out the author you mentioned. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your stories.


  4. C.K. Dexter-Haven

    Totally! My prob is that I forget 1/2 priced books isn’t a library and I have to pay for all the books in my arms


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