Book love

Appetite Book Club has been meeting monthly for almost 10 years.  We meet in a restaurant and discuss a different book over a 2-course supper and a glass of wine

During this period I have always encouraged people to buy their books from our lovely, local and independent shop.  When I say ‘encouraged’, I mean I have physically picked up a box of books from the shop, taken them to book club and attempted to sell them to the group.   I have gathered the payment and proudly delivered it back to the shop.  Even the most hardened of Amazon users has been known to soften when I explain that a book shop, full of real books, will only remain in our vision if we use it and while the shop has been there for 38 years, it is no guarantee of their future.

To fast forward 10 years I have recently been offered a part time job at the shop and I now feel legitimate in calling myself a book seller.  It’s early days but I have made some observations about book buyers.

Children’s books, aimed at the under 5 age group, are almost predominantly sold on nostalgia.   Parents, grandparents, friends buying for friends will wear this emotion like a huge statement scarf which sweeps around them.  They waft into the shop, flouncing their scarf, thick with memories of a book they read as a child.  They want to talk about their nostalgic feelings and anecdotes with a view to sharing the book with the next generation.  These are my favourite purchases to witness.  They are made with the purest of ‘book love’.

Next are the 5+ children who sometimes look a little love struck.  A different kind of book love.  They make eye contact with a book and it’s usually an instinctive choice.  A raw and inquisitive love.   This is sometimes curbed by parents worrying about ‘reading levels’ and ‘age appropriateness’ or concerns that the chosen book isn’t challenging enough.  I think I may have been guilty of this with my own children but now that I have seen ‘raw book love’ from an outside view I can now see it’s best left alone.

Teens choosing books display a ‘tribal book love’.  They are painfully aware that a book choice is a statement.  Which gang are they in?  Fantasy or Fact?   Gothic or girlie?  They will almost always choose a book they have heard of or seen somebody else reading and they will have subconsciously associated it with who they want to be.  They will know that tribal book love can fast track them to this place.   Through watching tribal book love purchases I can spot future leaders.

I am a lover of fiction.   If a customer heads towards the fiction shelving I feel an instant affinity with them.  Whichever book they pick up I will be able to say, quite genuinely, one of two things.  Either “I have read that” or “I would like to read that”.   This division is very simplistic to me and I believe most of the customers who hover in this area would agree.  They have a book love I understand.  It is a trusting love. It is born out of loving the unknown and trusting your author to take you on a journey there.  It is a trusting and a naive love because it doesn’t matter if you read a bad book, you will still put your trust in another one with the same excited anticipation.   This is my favourite book love.

The love I would like to nurture is ‘factual book love’.  The customers who choose nature, history and politics (our most popular genres) have a lucidity about them I believe comes from their need to understand the world we live in but not in a haphazard way.  They are focussed as they enter the shop, already knowing what they will leave with.  They arrive with a book title, author, release date and ISBN number.  There is an urgency in their need to fulfill their book love and age is no barrier.    We have customers in their 90s with admirably sharp brains.

My observations are based on only a few months’ experience. Being surrounded by books is making it even more challenging for me to select our monthly Book Club title…..but I’m enjoying the challenge.

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