How on earth does one ever choose a book? It has always been a mystery to me- should you judge a book by its cover, as most people do? Or should you take some time out to sit in the comfort of a book shop, surrounded by the smell of fresh ink and paper, and read a couple of pages before you decide?
This morning, when buying Sally Rooney’s book ‘Normal People’, I was struck by how
important my surroundings have always been to my decisions. Today’s Waterstones experience was calm and collected, leaving me free to roam the shelves, occasionally flicking through pages until I finally came to the conclusion that Rooney’s unusual book cover, an anchovy tin illustrated with two figures in passionate embrace, was enough for me.
Contrast this happy experience to an awful airport encounter a couple of weeks ago while popping into W H Smith to purchase a much needed holiday book. There were people everywhere, jumping into the teeniest tiniest gaps possible, battling with each other for a look at the limited selection. It was absolute hell in there, and to make matters worse, I felt pressured to buy a book as quickly as possible in case someone else nabbed the last copy. I didn’t even like the look of any of them and was dreaming of a comfy sofa to fall into and read in peace. Eventually, I left the shop feeling annoyed and dissatisfied.
An hour later, I found myself in a different W H Smith closer to the boarding gate, where I finally managed to choose a book! ‘Machines Like Me’ by Ian McEwan. The shop was still busy but at least there weren’t people pushing and shoving past me. Yes, I know I was in an airport and what else should I expect, but it was a relief to finally find a book amid the chaos. Interestingly, I ended up buying one by chance. Despite the front cover being so incredibly unattractive (a creepy AI robot staring out from a black background), it was only because I felt more comfortable in my surroundings that I was able to pick it up. After one very quick look over, I bought it, moderately but not entirely, stress-free.
It suddenly dawned on me that frenzied people and buying books do not go hand in hand. Making an informed decision in a quiet, settled environment is a much better way of choosing a book. Rash, hurried experiences are an absolute nightmare that leave you not entirely satisfied with your book. My tumultuous encounters in the two stressfull W H Smith’s, contrasted with my hugely relaxing, utterly lovely Waterstones experience, made me realize that a peaceful setting makes for much better book choices.
Don’t get me wrong, book covers are a huge factor, but in the future I will only judge a book solely by its cover if I’m in a similar airport situation.