Monday, October 21, 2013

In Which I Win A Prize (Or Two!)

Books are completely necessary to writers.  I've met writers of all genres from every sort of national, socio-economic, and educational background, and they have exactly one thing in common: they read constantly.  I would almost say that it's impossible to become a writer if you don't also read.

I grew up in a house full of books, and my book compulsion/collection has only grown since.  I revel in books.  I delight in them.  I learn from them.  So it's not surprising that every now and again I need to do some serious investigating at a serious bookstore.

Hence yesterday's excursion to Malaprop's, the pride of downtown Asheville and one of the truly great independent bookstores in the country.  I love Malaprop's, not just for the wide-ranging diversity of their selection, nor for their adjoining cafe (the scent of coffee and books mixed together is one of my favorite on earth), nor for their very knowledgeable staff.  I love them because they are kind.

Once, years ago, when I was going through a very hard time, I spend part of a day at Malaprop's.   One of the clerks approached me unasked and handed me a small card good for whatever I wanted from the cafe.  I think I must have looked terribly unhappy that day, and I remember that while the coffee I drank didn't make me feel better, it made me feel cared for by a kind universe and oddly less alone.

Yesterday I was in high spirits.  I'd brought along my daughter and one of her friends, who didn't find it at all odd to spend several hours in a bookstore.  I did a full, complete, every-shelf browse, and I found some great stuff--a book on the fates of the saints, which I'm sure is somehow going to be research.  A memoir of a well-known British writer's childhood in World War II--be still my heart.  A copy of a book on Egyptian gods first published in 1903, the perfect reference work for the "Egypt book."  Neil Gaiman's Fortunately The Milk, a delightful little froth of a story I read before bed last night, and Why I Jump, the newly-translated memoir by a Japanese autistic teen that everyone's been raving about. 

Etc.  When I went to pay for all these treasures, I said to the clerk, "I bet I'm your best customer today.  I should get a prize."

He said, "You do get a prize!"  Then he gave me my choice of a pile of Advanced Reader Copies, books which are not even published yet.  This is an amazing prize in that it doesn't cost Malaprop's a dime, but is a huge hit with readers like me.  And when I struggled to decide between two of the ARC's, the clerk gave me both.

It was a very good day.