Blind dates wouldn’t exist if we didn’t believe our friends had our best interests in mind, since suggestions are taken purely on faith. While online dating websites and Internet warehouses like Amazon have algorithms for recommending “perfect” matches, I continue to trust people more than I do machines. Call me old fashioned.
When I walked into Bookshop Santa Cruz in February and saw that they had a Valentine’s Day promotion encouraging customers to take a “blind date” with their staff’s favorite books, I knew I couldn’t go wrong.
It just so happened that I was already on a date at the time (who, incidentally, I met through friends). After casually browsing the store, my partner and I were both intrigued by a the table of books wrapped in brown paper to disguise their contents.
Each wrapping listed the book’s genre and a few key details. I picked up the “Blind Date with History,” while he considered the “Blind Date with Nature Writing.” I chose, “mid-nineteenth century San Francisco; Mark Twain; Arson,” and he went with “the comfort of wild place; otters & whales.”
Bookshop Santa Cruz had pegged our interests so well that it seemed as if cupid himself had arranged the bookstand. And while it may seem uncharacteristic for two Millennials, we didn’t hesitate to purchase the books at full price. As far as dates go, $15 is pretty reasonable, especially since a book won’t take one look at you and turn around.
And why shouldn’t we invest as much in books that could change our lives as we do in the promise of even the most fleeting romantic connection? In an age where customers increasingly treat bookstores like showrooms for items they plan to buy online, it’s time to reintroduce some mystery and romance into the tried and true routine.
Bookshop Santa Cruz got their Blind Date idea from a customer who had seen a similar promotion at a library. The bookshop’s challenge to judge a book by something other than its cover, amused writer, Michael Marshall, who tweeted a picture of the display on January 18th.
— MichaelMarshallSmith (@ememess) January 18, 2014
With over 1,500 retweets and nearly 800 favorites at the time of writing, this kind of approach may be just what local bookstores need to entice would-be readers, even if book cover illustrators may be less than amused.
After months of reading Robert Graysmith’s Black Fire and borrowing Kathleen Dean Moore’s Wild Comfort, it occurred to me that my romantic relationship was developing alongside my relationship to these books. We took our books to the beach, sat comfortably with them by the fire: metaphorically wining and dining them.
This kind of focused attention is a huge commitment for modern readers, and even the most avid reader can see well-meaning book recommendations as drudgery. But if you’ve been out of the reading game for a while, it’s never too late to jump back in. There are plenty of fish in the sea, as they say.
To find a local bookstore near you visit Indie Bound, where you can find local bookstores and search for specific titles.