Editor’s Note: Beyond Borders
When I was a kid, we went to the library to browse books. I had no particular idea what I was looking for; I just loved walking up and down the aisles finding the unexpected. Over the years, it was how I discovered "Runaway Ralph," "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret," among countless others. I continued going to the library through college, where my life was graced with encountering James Dickey's "To the White Sea" and "Alnilam"—a brilliant work of art (from the man who wrote "Deliverance")—and his poetry. Lots of Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath, Yehuda Amichai, and Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment." When I moved to Philadelphia and was working several jobs, I always had books out past the due date. Buying books was suddenly the answer. I could keep them.
I remember my first tour of Borders. It was like Candyland. I kept picking up books and putting them back. There was too much too choose from. Ultimately, I always managed to choose, not one, but usually two or three books. Between Borders and Barnes & Noble, I covered most of Dostoevsky's collection, reread Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (one of my all-time favorites) several times, discovered several of my other all-time favorites, explored the life of the Dalai Lama, and the Kabbalah … you get the idea.
Amazon: Not Browsing-Conducive?
I've spent hours in independent bookstores in Philadelphia, New Hope and elsewhere. I also have bought books I knew I wanted from Amazon.com (is that cheating on the brick-and-mortars?), especially gifts for friends, but I've never "browsed" Amazon. (And I was thinking of the brick-and-mortars the whole time, I swear.) It has never led me to discover an author or a book, despite its "customers who bought items in your recent history also bought …" feature.