Why I never random-pick a book in the library

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Really, how hard is it to pick a book from the library? This is what happened when I went to the library on Saturday.

I had two holds to pick up that I was really excited about - both were Diary of the Wimpy Kid books, which I knew I would finish within a few hours. Although I had my next two weeks of reading planned out, and had no space to squeeze in an extra book, I still couldn't imagine leaving the library with just holds and nothing randomly picked. So, I decided to pick one more book that
1. wasn't new (because new books have a 14-day checkout period, as opposed to 21 for the rest), and
2. was literary fiction (and not one of my guilt pleasure reads, like thrillers or chick-lit).


With that intention, soon as I walked into the library, I browsed by the many shelves, checked my goodreads page for books I want to read, randomly picked up authors I know I want to try, but mostly stood aside thinking what to do. I spent about 30 minutes doing each of these actions, and still had no book in hand!

Ok, don't panic, I told myself. It's not that hard to pick a book. I may be a bookaholic, and may probably have a good chunk of the library in my TBR, but choosing one book from that humongous list isn't hard; at least, I tried to convince myself that it wasn't hard. At that point, I had a brilliant idea - why not pick a book for one of the challenges that I was doing. I thought maybe the Graphic Novels challenge was a good starting point - but graphic novels read fast, I didn't want to complete a challenge this early in the year (then, in my book, it's not even a challenge).

How about the Take a Chance Challenge? Purely random, best for impromptu book searches, except I hadn't decided my list yet, and I didn't want to stand like a dork in the library writing out my list. But oh yeah, there's my PIE list of books I SHOULD read this year. But most are heavy literature and I was looking for something light. Which brings me to chick-lit or thriller. But those were precisely the genre I decided not to browse for now.

Sigh... this happens all the time I go to the library and decide to browse through the shelves and pick a book. Somehow, I've never had the pleasure of doing that yet. Either I have each of my fingers on 2 different books and can't decide among them, or I chuck every book I pick saying I'm not in mood for it. Picking a hold works so much better for me. Or deciding in advance. Once in a while, I try to get a bit adventurous and pick a book at random. Nada! No luck! It's like walking into a grocery store without a list. You either leave a few ingredients short, or buy more than you planned to.

Whenever I read anyone's library posts, especially one peppered with a bunch of books, I wonder why I can't make up my mind. Is it because of too many choices, or because I really don't feel like reading some of them at that instant? Sometimes, I decide to take a book, and instead of proceeding to checkout right away, I go back to browse further, which adds more books to my hand and clutters my mind.

In the end, I decided to leave without any book (other than the two holds). I was incensed with my indecisiveness in the library. And you know what? I accidentally glanced at a shelf and saw Bernice McFadden's This Bitter Earth on the shelf, and knew without a doubt that this is a book I really want to read. Off it fell into my library bag! The day wasn't all waste, in the end.

11 comments:

bermudaonion said...

The branch of our library system that's the closest to me isn't that good. When I want a book from it I almost always have to put it on hold, so they can get it from another branch.

I have trouble in bookstores for the opposite reason - I want all of the books.

Marce said...

That is hilarious Aths. I actually like brand new books, I don't like the smell of libraries :-0

I do look at my LibraryThing account sometimes for hours trying to figure out what to read next, lol

Natalie W said...

Ohhhh how many times I've done the same thing. Except I will check out like 5 or 6 books, knowing I won't read them all but I just had to bring them home!
Enjoy your reads,
Natalie :0)
°.¸¸.•´¯`»The Book Inn

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I feel ya! That's why I order my books online ahead of time. So they are ready for me to pick up at the desk. Great post.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Faced with shelves and shelves of books I cannot make the decision either. I have to go in with a short list and find the first one that's available. Controlled decision-making, no?

christa @ mental foodie said...

Ha, I have the opposite problem. I ended up borrowing way too many books (randomly picked!)

In fact, I was just thinking about it today. I went to pick up my 3 holds, told myself I wasn't going to pick up any more books, or try to not borrow more than what I'd just returned... FAILED.

I enjoy looking at the new books available, never heard of, judged them by their cover and then read the blurb... I don't always end up borrowing something, but today I picked up quite a few (and funny enough, 3 books ended up with titles that had the word "lie" in them!)

And afterward I thought - going to the library is like going to a book store, pick what you want, and you don't even have to pay! :)

Granted, I don't always end up reading what I randomly picked (because I usually read reviews on amazon/goodreads after I have borrowed the books, and found they don't rate so well lol, not that I decide on a book based on ratings alone :)

I have too many books waiting to be read already (mostly library and a few ARC), but I just couldn't help myself every time I go to the library! Especially since it's so close to my work, just a 5-10 min walk, depending on how fast I walk :)

diaryofaneccentric said...

The only browsing I do at the library is in the "just in" section upstairs or the displays in the lobby. I tend to throw aside more library books than anything, but the one I'm reading right now is one my husband grabbed off the shelf for me when I was picking up some holds. It's actually quite good.

Marg said...

I very rarely browse at the library. I either go in with a specific item in mind (very rarely) or I just run in and pick up my holds. If I think I might want a book I request it so that it is sitting there waiting for me when I am ready.

Aths said...

Kathy, when I was doing my grad, I always put books on hold. Then I would go to the library, pick the hold and head back home. That's all the time I had with my busy schedule. But now, since I do have lots more "ME" time, I try to be a bit more impulsive and bit less list-oriented. I guess, some habits die hard, eh?

Marce, I can relate to that looking at LT account to decide a book. I do that often too, but with goodreads.

Natalie, I used to do that too - take a lot of books home and return them back just the same, sometimes with even the receipt inside the books. I'm trying to stop doing that, but now I have this other problem.

Juju, I think I will also settle to do just that.

Helen, I agree. That saves a lot of time too. I think I have to stop random browsing, and use it only to appreciate existence of tons of books.

Christa, we're all birds of the same flock, right? LOL! I can totally understand taking a bunch of books home and returning them unread. I do that too. :)

Anna, maybe we should outsource book-browsing to a family member? That's actually a grand idea!

Marg, I used to do the same. Thought I'll experiment a bit this time around. FAIL!

Madigan McGillicuddy said...

I feel your pain! I went to the library today to stock up and had a list of 70 odd titles that would be acceptable. They only had 3 of them in! Isn't that sad?
There's a certain art to putting books on hold -- enough so that you don't run out of things to read, not so much that you end up with 10 or more books all coming in at once.

Aths said...

Madigan, I really need to learn the secrets of putting just enough books on hold, so that they don't literally fall into my arms at the same time.