Just came home from a Friday night outing to the bookstore. Does that sound pathetic? Probably not if you’re one of my friends, who is just as likely to spend free time at the bookstore as I am. To the rest of the world, perhaps, but I enjoyed it. I love shopping for books. Love bringing them home, all shiny and new and full of possibilities. It’s my one real vice, I suppose, if you don’t count chocolate. Book shopping. My mother laid the foundation when I was about seven or eight and didn’t have quite enough allowance for the book I wanted to buy, A Little Princess. She gave me the extra and told me that books are always worth spending money on. I never forgot that. I still have that copy of that book on the bookshelf in my hallway. And mum still loves the bookstore, too.
Tonight, I had a funny little communal experience with the other book shoppers. I was in the bargain books section, the best place, I think, to discover new authors. I end up buying an author’s whole backlist because I took a $5 or $6 chance on a book that turns out to be wonderful. Anyway, I was browsing there, along with a handful of other people, and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” came on the store’s stereo system. I defy you to listen to that song, whatever you think of Neil Diamond, and not be tempted to sing along. So there I am, quietly singing “Sweet Caroline”, when I realized that every other person in the section was doing the same. There we were, shopping for bargain books, un-self-consciously singing Neil Diamond in the middle of the bookstore. A couple of other people came through the section, also humming or singing. No one acknowledged anyone else, but you could see from the little half smiles that we’d all noticed. And then the song ended, and we all went back to shopping quietly, without comment. It reminded me of those flash mob videos you see on youtube, only with no mob and no plan, but just a bunch of people just shopping, then suddenly singing, then just shopping again.
It was great, and I came home with a big stack of new authors to try, thanks to a gift card I’ve been waiting to use. And so did my daughter, who browsed in the kid section and picked her own books while I chose mine. I’ve passed on that same lesson my mother taught me to her. As we were leaving, I said, “I love book shopping. Makes me happy,” and she said, “So do I.” That’s my girl.