Serendipity and the perfect book

When I was in grade seven, I used to walk to the local library every Friday after school (about two miles) to drop off last week’s books and select the next week’s. The way I picked the books I wanted to borrow was to walk along the shelves of novels in the children’s section until a spine or cover jumped out at me. This method led me to discover some of my favourite books, including “The Court of the Stone Children” by Eleanor Cameron, “The Book of Three” by Lloyd Alexander (which led me to all of the Prydain Chronicles) and “False Dawn” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (a graphic science fiction novel, which, as I pointed out to the librarian after I’d read it, definately did not belong in the children’s section).

More recently, this serendipitous selection habbit has led me to books such as “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingslover, “The Mermaid Chair” by Sue Monk Kidd, “Blessed are the Cheesemakers” by Sarah-Kate Lynch (a title I couldn’t resist) and “Down the Rabbit Hole” by Peter Abrahams (a mystery, which I found in the adult section of the library, though it may have belonged in the children’s section, but could work in both, I think).  

There’s something magical about feeling the call of a previously unkown book, or discovering the perfect book by pure chance.

Today, I walked into Chapters, killing time between a dentist appointment and catching the bus home, and not intending to buy anything. I wandered idly down the middle of the store and into thebook cover children’s section, turned around, and there was a bright orange and red picture book: “The Company of Crows” by Marilyn Singer. Poems celebrating crows and gorgeous illustrations (by Linda Saport) full of crows! I hadn’t even known the book existed. Of course, I had to buy it.

The cover and the first inside illustration also reminded me of the haiku my friend Jean-Pierre recently added to the comments of my November “Call of the Wild” post:

Eyes are everywhere
Peering through the leaves and branches
In the rookery

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3 Responses to “Serendipity and the perfect book”

  1. floatingclouds Says:

    I did this very thing when I was in high school. Feeling very isolated from the rest of the world, living in West Virginia, I would save my lunch money to ride the bus over the Kanawha River and go to the library in town, cruise the stacks, and just randomly pick out books off the shelves and read them. This lead me to poetry, beat authors such as Jack Kerouc, and then to references in their writing (Mahatma Gandhi, Buddhism, Vegetariansism) which led me further to books about these subjects, and so on. Needless to say, I became a pacifist, vegetarian, poet, anti war protestor, and hippie, contributing much to the chagrin of my parents and conservative community. Oh yes, I am a librarian today.

  2. Jacqueline Pearce Says:

    My early reading wasn’t quite so socially conscious (I went through a phase of researching magic and unexplained phenomena, for example). But novels often led me to unexpected discoveries about history and social issues (the holocaust, apartheid, etc.). My university reading is another story…..

  3. bolmom Says:

    Gee, that brings back memories…. My high school reading experience was similar. It’s amazing what wonderful stories hide behind interesting spines! But perhaps even better is the memory of taking the bus with my best friend to go to the public library every Saturday morning. After exchanging our books, we would head to the restaurant in Sears to share an order of french fries smothered in gravy. Good books, fries and gravy, and a good friend–what more can a girl want?

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