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Between the Covers
The Joys of Browsing Books
Money may be tight, but there's no reason not to enjoy some cheap entertainment between the covers! Now, get your mind out of the bedroom. I'm talking about the joy that comes from browsing books in a bookstore or your local library and finding a really great read.
I enjoy the peaceful hush that can be heard through the columns of books, neatly arranged with each one of their spines calling out to you. From the historical fiction, to the "how to" area, it truly is like being a kid in the candy store. Sure, I know... you can shop for books online, but there is nothing like the feel and the sound of being surrounded by thousands of possibilities - stories to learning experiences - that can literally take you away from your troubles.
Next time you have an hour or two, head to your local bookstore. While big-box retailers like Barnes and Noble have a great selection, you can make friends more easily, and connect with the community on a new level by frequenting smaller "mom and pop" storefronts. There, you may find staff favorites, handwritten notes about the books themselves and probably even some local authors' works.
The fight between chain bookstores and local shops was immortalized in the 1988 Romantic Comedy, "You've Got Mail," starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Its still one of my favorite flicks:
You've Got Mail
Navigating the Library or Large Bookstore
Given the broad range of published works, libraries and large bookstores are arranged in a manner to help you. In general, you will find all fiction works in one area, arranged by author, alphabetically. Of course, children's books are separated from adult selections. You may find selections like "Harry Potter" in both areas, though.
With respect to Non-fiction, works are divided into general topic areas and then alphabetized. You can find entire shelves devoted to Cooking, Photography, Travel, Business, Women's Interest, Religion, Politics, Biographies, Marketing..... the list goes on and on!
In both a library and a bookstore, staff is available to help you locate a desired publication. At the library, you may have to request a popular work if it is not currently on location. The library may call or email you when it has been returned (and you are next on the list). Computer kiosks are often available to help people search, as well.
Book Club Recommendations
How to Start a Book Club
Although reading is a solitary activity, you can share the fun of a great book with others. Book clubs are becoming more popular, particularly as an inexpensive way to have fun.
It is so easy to start or join a book club. I recommend forming a group of 6-8 people so that everyone has time to share their thoughts, and there can be a diversity of opinions/views. At my book club, each of the 6 of us pick 2 books for the group to read. That covers all 12 months of the year. We rotate our meetings from home to home, on the same day (the 4th Wednesday) of each month. While we meet in the evenings with potluck meals, my mom's group meets at noon at a coffee shop. That keeps cost and hassle lower, as well.
Teens and young adults can also enjoy the benefits of a book group. The popular Twilight series is big for groups these days. However, its fun to try something unexpected, as well. After you browse your local book store or library, pick out a few recommendations that may be off-the-beaten path.
You might want to consider a specialized book group, instead of a more traditional fiction-based gathering. Why not a travel book group, or a cooking book group. You can combine the focus with slideshows from recent trips, or experimenting with favorite recipes.
Everyone is probably familiar with Oprah's Book Club. Of course, its not a club that anyone can join (unless you count the online interaction). Only Oprah and her buddies meet to discuss the selections, from time to time. And even that seems to be rare. Oprah basically chooses a book that she enjoys and then puts her "O" brand on the front.... thereby spiking sales for the lucky author.
While Oprah's book selections are usually great reads, we still prefer to find undiscovered gems for ourselves. With thousands of books printed each month, the choices are endless.
The Jane Austen Book Club
One of my favorite quotes, by one of my absolute favorite authors, C.S. Lewis is: "We read to know we're not alone."
Regardless of the world around us, we are not alone. We can dive into a new world simply by opening the covers and turning the page. Whether you spend time at the book store, the library and... hopefully... in a book group, too, you need not be wealthy to enjoy the riches of literature and good writing.
What will you read next?