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Bookstore

By: Louise van Oel

Photo Credits: Unsplash

 
 

You walk into a bookstore. Not an uncommon occurrence, but you have a special feeling about today. Today, you are sure that you will find The One.

 

That appellation may be misleading. There is almost certainly no single book that will define you or your entire life. There is, however, a perfect book for any given moment. Often you don’t have it, merely reading occasionally as you go through your days, but you know when you do. When you’ve picked up a book and suddenly it consumes your hours, makes your mind soar with its ideas, and makes your heart race with its artfulness.

 

Every bookstore you walk into has this book in stock. You just have to find it.

 

You walk over to Literary Fiction. This is the section with both the highest and the lowest chance of success. Books for all sorts and all minds live here, but the “category” is so broad that your efforts will be mostly hit and miss, with very little guidance beyond spine colours and titles.

 

You pick up a book that psychologically picks apart the phenomenon of bestiality in a modern family. You put it back. The next book seems promising until it mentions an incest plotline. You put it back. Bad luck with sex today. A deep dive into a depressed plumber’s final days finally pushes you out of Literary Fiction. To dredge up your personal gem from this bottomless ocean is too much of a daunting task.

 

Science Fiction next. Perhaps the book that will most touch your soul at this moment is one of alien civilisations meeting across immeasurable distances, creatures forming bonds despite the differences they barely understand enough to describe. Perhaps what you need is a heroic tale of a small team surviving together out in inhospitable space.

 

The first book you pull out is about interplanetary war. So is the second. The third is about a pandemic that nearly wipes out human civilization on Earth. The fourth is about a cross-solar system pandemic that wipes out not one but fifteen species. You leave Sci-Fi with the icky feeling that something might infect you through the pages.

 

Fantasy, perhaps? A bit of historically-flavoured magic, fascinating worlds, and Arthurian courtly romance might be what you need right now. Escaping the everyday through spells and sorcery can make dreary reality seem just a little more bearable, after all.

 

You leave Fantasy after having read about approximately fifteen different man-creature hybrids having intercourse with beautiful women. Many of the men had wings of some kind. Some had claws, which seemed hazardous. One definitely had a tail.

 

Maybe Nonfiction will have what you need. You could ignite a new lifelong interest, learn more about a facet of history or science, maybe discover the life of an inspiring person you never knew existed. Sometimes, the most captivating stories are the ones people actually lived. Perhaps the biography of a great person—a ruler, an artist, a hero—will incite you to throw yourself headlong into making your mark on the world. From that book onwards, you’ll live a more noteworthy—perhaps even bookworthy—life.

 

No luck. Tragically, nothing here sparks you either. You retrace your steps through the shelves, prepared to trudge back home without that spark in your backpack and your mind. A shame. You really need something to jolt you from your everyday, a new obsession to remind you that life never stops being exciting.

 

Your hand slides along the spines absentmindedly as you think about the dull grocery shopping you have to do on your way home, and the nowhere-near-finished essay for your least favourite class waiting for you on your laptop.

 

Suddenly, your fingers catch on a book that is just a little taller than the ones around it. You stop, curiosity piqued at last. Is this It? Turning to face the shelf, you pull the sole copy out from between its neighbours. The cover is beautiful, but you wait to judge until…

 

You turn the book over to read the back. Your eyes absorb the words.

 

In your chest, something catches.

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