I had one of those experiences at the bookstore today where I had to pause and question my sanity. I stood just inside the entrance of my local Borders, turning copy after copy of Change of Heart over and around in my hand, trying to find the perfect copy, the one with the tight spine, snow-white pages, and flawless dust jacket. This OCD episode wasn't weird in and of itself, and neither was the fact that a 35-year-old man was looking to buy the latest Jodi Picoult book, although you might find both of them to be on the crazy side.
No, what was weird about today's trip to the bookstore was walking up to the counter with the Picoult book and a second novel I found just moments later. What an interesting pair they made. On the one hand, you have the Picoult novel, loved and praised by housewives around the world, and on the other, you have Zero Cool, the latest Hard Case Crime offering by John Lange, soon to be devoured by men seeking an escape into the darker side of crime. The cover of one book features a young girl standing in a room of soft, warm light, which gives off this feeling of both sadness and fright. The second cover features a half-naked "broad" and screams sex and dark, pulpy violence.
"Who the Hell am I?" I thought to myself, soaking in both covers as I waited in line. For the briefest of moments, I felt...dirty, like I was some sort of dysfunctional pervert. I looked at the Picoult cover and thought, "What would Jason think?" And then I looked at the Lange cover and thought, "What would Mom think?"
Don't get me wrong, I don't feel ashamed about the things I like, and even though my friends like to laugh at my taste, it doesn't bother me (neither does the questioning look the cashier gives me as she rings me up). Instead, what's a little off about this whole episode is that this weekend I'm going to slide that Picoult book onto a shelf where it will be surrounded by a detective novel here, a science fiction novel there, a horror novel right there, and a memoir over there.
Most readers (and collectors) I know tend to lean towards one, maybe two genres. But not me. I need to be all over the map. I can't pinpoint exactly what I like, and if a stranger were to look at my bookcases, he might wrinkle his brow or shake his head, wondering what this eclectic collection says about its owner. Meanwhile, I just shrug, being no closer to an answer myself, but content enough in the knowledge that I'm getting some level of enjoyment from each of the books in my rag tag collection.