Chapter 4 - Bottom Shelf
How wonderful to go to work and see all the beautiful books in the store. Even better, I get to see customers who have not been in since March or April as they are our "snowbirds", people who come south to escape the snowy tundra that is winter in the north. I see customers from all over Canada, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan - almost anywhere that has cold winters. When you are from an environment where the average temps are in the negatives, 40 and 50 degrees seems like summer I suppose.
These wonderful people all have one thing in common - they like to read which is why they are in the store to begin with! Many walk right in and know instantly which books they are looking for. Others have detailed lists which they maintain and check religiously to see which books they need. Others ask for recommendations and we, of course, are glad to help them.
But, by and large, they do not scan the bottom shelves of the bookcases. It is sad because some perfectly wonderful stories are at the bottom, just waiting to be picked up and taken home. In the interest of finding great homes for these poor, forgotten books here are a few of the treasures that could be yours for the asking.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - At the very bottom of our Autobiographies/Biographies section is this wonderful book that tells the tragic story of Henrietta Lacks, a young African-American mother in 1951 who dies of cancer and, unbeknownst to her family, her cells become an important tool in medical research. The journey of how the family learns this and what they do is fascinating.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - Hanging out at the bottom of our Classics section, Mrs. Dalloway is one of my very favorite Virginia Woolf books. If you have ever wanted to read Woolf but have been intimidated by her, this is an easy place to start. The short novel (224 pages) takes place after World War I and tells of Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess, revealing the thoughts and feelings she goes through in her day. It is beautifully written and surprisingly deep.
A Midwinter's Tale by Andrew M. Greeley - Andrew Greeley was a Jesuit priest who wrote, along with non-fiction works, some wonderful novels. This is the first of the O'Malley series, a family saga which starts in the late 1940's and takes the reader through the turbulent years of the 1970's. One of the best family sagas I have read!
The Dinner by Herman Koch - Just how far would you go to protect your child? That is the question this novel attempts to answer. As a dinner between two couples unfolds, it is clear that all is not right in their world. A uniquely compelling read.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - This is the story of Don Tillman, a brilliant scientist, who decides it is time to get married. To this end, he has devised a 20 page questionnaire for prospective candidates to fill out. Needless to say, love is not an exact science and Don finds that all his preparations are for naught!
Have you checked out the bottom shelf of your favorite bookstore yet? You might just find a pearl of your own!