Essay

How about a Blind Date with a Book?

I wrote before how books can be like destiny. So why not then entertain a new idea, a blind date with a book. Care to try? Here’s how to do it.

PICK A BOOK WITHOUT SEEING ITS COVER.

It sounds impossible, but it’s been done. I found the photo below on the internet, more specifically from writingprompts.tumbler.com. Those who love to write and need some ideas on what to write, I recommend this website.

Apparently this idea has been tossed around in many book clubs, discussed by bloggers all over the world, and so on. I am sure in some places, people might have repeated this action.At first, I thought it was a good idea too. I’m trying to remember if I definitely ever pick up a book solely based on its cover. I probably do almost all the time. I realize however, that book cover can sometimes be misleading. When browsing book shelves in bookstores, I must admit that colorful book covers or books with catchy title will gain my interest first. It never fails. My hands just lose control, apparently my eyes take over the control of my body, and voila! The book is in my hands. That is how usually things happen with me in book stores. Then, I will go straight to the back side (this never fails too) to read whatever information it can offer me about the content. Afterwards, come the argument in my head. It usually goes like this, “Do I really need this? Is it good? It looks interesting”, which then is countered by another voice, “No, you still have unfinished ones at home. Finish those first. Put it back.”  “But, I’m almost done with those. In case I can’t get to any bookstore next month, I should just prepare one. Just in case.”  “Yeah, but do you have the money? Look at how much that costs.”  And there goes the reality check. The counter-argument usually wins by this time, because books in English are unfortunately so expensive in Indonesia, especially new books.  If I do finally decide to buy the book, then the information about the book must have done a good job to be able to capture my interest.

In other words, book cover and some words about the book are usually the two things that help me decide which books to get. I am having a hard time with the idea of having a blind date with a book. What if I become disappointed with the book? What if it’s not to my liking? After all, I do believe in books as destiny, remember? Perhaps if they want to sell books covered like this, then they should at least lower the price or give us an option to exchange the book if it doesn’t match to what we want (I think I just gave you my opinion about the real blind date too *grin*).

But I will entertain some of the questions on the prompt above anyway. So what would be the 4 or 5 descriptions written on the wrapping paper that would help me picking a book? I actually like the question because it allows me to look back at the types of books that I have read. There is a pattern, and here it is in order of its importance to me:

1. Memoir
2. Survival
3. Detective (or adventure)
4. Self-improvement
5. History

The last book that I read has the following descriptions:
1. Happiness
2. Spirituality
3. Life balance
4. Destiny
5. Dreams

I know what you think. I obviously ventured away from my usual pattern in that last book.

As a whole, I’m not a big fan of this idea of covering books, or even movies, music, game from their identity. I think those of us who love books, movies, music, games, choose them as an escape or an adventure. It would be a nightmare escape or adventure if we get trapped inside a journey that we can’t enjoy. But then again, there are people who will say that the true adventure is when trying something completely new or unknown.

Different people, different taste. In my case, just give me my choice of escape, please.

Essay

Books as Destiny?

The following essay was originally written in January 2016 and published in my other blog.
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I’m currently reading two books at the same time. Call me greedy, but I am trying to read both of them as fast as I can. By next week when the new semester starts, who knows if I’ll have the time to read again. It’s a sad truth about a teaching job, but it’s reality. So as the wise Master Yoda would have advised me: speed reading, you must do, my child.

Those two books are: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma.

I’m starting to come to this thought that maybe books do work like destiny for us, at least they do for me. Why? They seem to come to me at the right time. When I find the ones that I can connect with, they seem to appear at the right time. I bought Robin Sharma’s book long time ago — probably about a year ago, but never read it. I left it somewhere in the house, and it was soon forgotten, hidden underneath a pile of junk stuff. Then, just recently, more precisely last weekend when I suddenly had a burst of energy to clean up the whole house and unpack moving boxes that have been sitting in the back room for two months, the book appeared in front of me still wrapped inside its plastic. Brand new, never been opened. I saw it and said to myself, “That is my next book.”  I just knew it.  I started reading it this morning and the message from the book just hits me deeply. I thought what a perfect timing to find this book. It also makes me wonder why didn’t I read it before when I first bought it. I must have bought it because I was interested in it. I usually picked my books carefully. But how come I never opened it until today?  This is when I’m starting to think that maybe meeting books is like meeting new people. Sometimes we just click right away when we meet a new person, and sometimes we don’t — no chemistry at all. And I am talking about meeting anyone, with any gender, in any context, for any kind of relationship.I met the first book, The Happiness Project, more recently. It was on the day when I stopped by at a local mall to buy a nice big glass jar for my 365 gratitude notes project. While at the mall, I stopped by at the ATM machine that happens to be near a bookstore. Surely, my feet seem to have walked by themselves towards the bookstore (honestly, that was exactly what happened!). And there in that bookstore, my destiny found me. Now, I must say that I have seen this book before in other bookstores, but my point again, why didn’t I have any interest to get the book before? Why now? The book also spoke to me and hit the right chord.

Each of these two books serve the same purpose for me, answering an important question that I have been pondering lately. However, each has its own way of serving its purpose. While Gretchen Rubin intrigues me and opens my eyes to new ideas of activities to be and maintain happiness, Robin Sharma covers the deeper end of my question, a more spiritual aspect. I’ve been enjoying reading both books and will continue for a few more days. Hopefully I can squeeze in some reading time before bed time in the next weeks until both books are done.

Talking about books working as destiny reminds me of another book that truly changes my life. It’s no other than a book by my role model, Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love. Now, that is truly destiny. It almost felt as if Elizabeth Gilbert was talking to me when I read that book. EPL is a proof that a stranger in the form of an author can leave a very deep, long lasting impact on another person. This is why I celebrate the existence of books, especially books that can leave me in awe, make me reflect on my life. At times, as if it’s forcing me to stand in front of a mirror and see who’s looking back at me. I love books that can make me ‘feel’.  Make me cry, laugh, angry, or surprise me. Or how about books that can take us on an exhausting journey with complicated, multi-layered characters. Yes, I still remember the first time I read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and then how sad I felt when getting to the end of the series. Like many HP and LotR fans, I went through a grieving stage at the end. I was a late LotR fan — was introduced to the series only in the early 2000s before the movies came out, so I still vividly remember when I devoured those books. I think I lost many sleeping hours during that wonderful journey.

Books! Whether you believe it as destiny or not, I still think we can learn plenty from books. Books do talk to us, like humans do. In some occasions, books as dead objects probably send a better and clearer message to us than do some humans. So if that is the case, then going back to my previous hypothesis, why don’t we look at books as our destiny? It makes perfect sense to me.