Monday, November 16, 2009

"Book Shopper: A Life in Review" by Murray Browne

This is one of those little books that just sounded really, really neat. The author loves to shop in used bookstores, and he wants to let others know how to relish in the hunt for a great title in a little, out of the way shop. I couldn't agree more; there's nothing like finding a true gem in a pile of junk. Plus, I worked for a used bookstore not all that long ago, albeit a larger, slightly more commercial one, and I had really enjoyed it.

Well, after reading Mr. Browne's book, I can advise you that there are one or two chapters that are delightful, and several that are not. Read "Book Lovers are not Necessarily People Lovers", "Books as Gifts", "How I Became a Reader", and "Amazon Uncovered". The chapters that comprise Part II of this little work were quite the shock to me - Browne is what I call a Book Snob. (I should have picked up on this when he was talking about his time as a reviewer, but I guess I just glossed over that part). He has lists of titles that he believes every "good" used bookstore should carry, and they would all be considered literary. That's OK to have in a store, any bookstore, really, but what Browne fails to acknowledge is that those titles are usually not what keeps a store in business. For example, one of the authors he insists a "good" store carry is Oscar Hijuelos; when I did my time at my particular chain of stores, I couldn't give those things away. Browne won't read "bestsellers", nor does he do most genres, and guess what folks - those are the books that SELL. The last time I checked, stores were still in business to make money, too.

Overall, I was disappointed with this "guide", as I was disappointed by Browne's literary snobbery. I look at books the way I look at all the arts - enjoy what you like, but also be willing to branch out and try something new. You never know when you'll find a new favorite author (or singer, or artist, etc). If you limit yourself to certain areas of books, songs, or works of art, you really just limit your own enjoyment. Be brave!

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