What could be more romantic?
My friend was telling me about her recent date night. She and her husband have only been out together a handful of times since having their 2-year-old daughter, so when her in-laws came to visit, it was a chance for a few hours of alone time.
"We went to dinner and then to Barnes and Noble," she reported somewhat sheepishly. Then added, "It was great!"
Indeed. I get it. With a little one running our lives as of late, my husband and I can appreciate the luxury of browsing in a store — especially a bookstore — without worrying about a toddler's limited attention span. In fact, we've done that exact date night many times.
If it sounds silly, think of the romance of browsing shelves, catching glimpses of one another through the tops of books or at the end of aisles. The hush and wonder of a nook in the back. The smell of coffee brewing. The excitement of reading a great passage over your partner's shoulder.
So why not date night at a bookstore? In fact, if I were still single, I'd probably love to vet my dates that way. What section do they head to first? What books do they pick up? Head to a used bookstore to see if your date is good at plucking gems from the rough.
Or visit a library sale's children's and young-adult sections to find out what he or she grew up reading. Think of the conversations that can happen! And if you find out that your date hates Harry Potter or thinks reading the menu at Starbucks is good enough — well, then, hey, that's less time you have to waste on them, right?
Browsing in bookstores in general is a pleasure that's slowly becoming rare. I can't tell you how many random titles I've found from the stroll through aisles, authors I would've never otherwise known about.
Recently, my husband, Art, and I were in a bookstore and I spied Ray Russell's Haunted Castles, a collection of his gothic tales. The creepy cover image immediately drew me in, and when I showed it to Art, he said he'd seen a review of the book and had meant to tell me about it. It was browsing the shelves one day when I discovered Art's love for Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott mystery series, and neither of us can leave a used-book store without first scouting the kids' section for Three Investigators books.
There's a treat in the feel of a book in your hand, in finding aesthetically pleasing covers, of running a finger through pages. I like the staff-picks section, where you can find the favorites of fellow bookworms. I like looking for my own books and the books of friends and seeing what great minds are shelved next door. The really great ones might have a cat purring in the window.
It's not the same as browsing your Amazon search results or scrolling through an email of recommended reads. And while it's lovely that you can easily find many more books online — books that sadly would never make it to a bookstore's shelves — I spend so much time online that shopping is much more of a transaction than an experience. For me, at least, that's not as satisfying.
There's a magic to a bookstore, to picking up a book, opening it, and wondering if you're going to fall in love.
If that's not romantic, then tell me, what is?