Browsing books in the store

I was in Walgreens this week waiting for my photos and wandered around the store for a while as the technician tried to fix the photo development machinery. Try as he might, he couldn’t fix the machine but my time spent waiting ended up with me doing something I haven’t done in a long time – reading the beginning of a book in a store.

A bin of discount hardcover bestsellers marked down to two for $10 caught my eye and I cracked open “Cell” by Stephen King. (Yes, I know it’s been Stephen King Mania Week at The Scrawl this week but bear with me; it’s likely my recent mania is what made me read “Cell” over Dennis Lehane’s short story collection “Coronado.”) I read the first fifteen pages and liked what I read. King dives right into the zombie action and the gory body count reaches a few dozen by page eight or so. It feels well-written, too, so there’s something for those seeking good zombie literature. The book’s subject matter aside, what struck me most was that I decided to read the opening of a book and see if I like it.

I used to browse bookstores. Spot a catchy title or cover, recognize a writer’s name. Pick up the book and read a little bit, see if it grabs me. I did this more when I was in college, developing a sense of what kind of books I like to read. But I honestly can’t remember doing this once during my MFA days. Instead, I sought out recommended writers and titles, favorite writers and their latest work. I bought these books without reading page one and have seldom been disappointed with these “blind buys.”

It’s entirely possible that my days of browsing are over. When I go to a store I’m often in a rush and know exactly what I want to buy (poor Target rarely sees me wandering beyond the loss leaders like DVDs and basic grocery items). Plus, most of my book-buying has been online the last few years because I’m a bargain hunter; this may be the move that adds “money” to “time” in this equation. I wonder if the act of reading in the store is becoming rarer for me not because I’m adverse to doing it but because I don’t present myself with the opportunity as much, anymore. I liked giving it a try in Walgreens though, and I suspect if I want to do it again, I may actually have to schedule it. Scheduled wandering. Is this what it’s come to?

I didn’t have ten bucks on me when I read the opening of “Cell” but I may end up snatching it and the aforementioned “Coronado” later this week. Just what I need – more books on the shelf. Yet I’m a sucker for a deal and as someone who absolutely believes good writing is good writing no matter if it’s genre or Literature with a capital L, these books appeal to me.

Has anybody out there read these two titles? Any good? Also, do you read books in the store before you buy them? If so, why? If not, what’s stopping you?

-nm

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