Random Books

One of my favorite activities – and further proof of my book addiction – is what I like to call random books. How it works is: you go to a local bookstore’s discount/bargain section (Barnes and Noble, Waldenbook is, or Half-Priced Books work well for me) or even a decent used book store; you browse through the fiction section looking for interesting covers and titles; pick out a book you have never heard of but looks interesting; go home and immediately start reading it.

It is quite simple but it is a lot of fun. I enjoy the random nature of just finding a book I know nothing about and reading it. I like trying to find books I will like judging only by the cover and jacket information. I used to do this in high school with music too.

Last night I picked up two interesting random books:

* The Museum Guard by Howard Norman
A young museum guard must cope with his girlfriend’s obsession with a Dutch painting entitled Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam as well as with his uncle’s fixation on the horrific news of World War II being broadcast from Europe.
This looked interesting and I need some fiction that was intelligent but not draining. Plus the book is less than $5.

* The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders and Lane Smith (Illustrator)
An adult story for children, a children’s story for adults, an earthlings’ story for aliens, an oceanside fable for the landlocked, acapitalist tool for anarchists, a fish story for loaves, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip represents the classic instant of two young geniuses colliding and colluding. The result is—what else?—an instant classic!

This is an very interesting book! It is a fun childrens book illustrated by the guy who did James and the Giant Peach. But it is also a morality tale. Barnes and Noble described it thus:

Move over, Bill Bennett—the inimitable short story master George Saunders (Pastoralia) and acclaimed illustrator Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales) have created an astonishing new book of virtues for the child in all of us. Alternately haunting and hilarious, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip reaffirms the age-old message of the Golden Rule while simultaneously lampooning the great American institutions of social conservatism and religious chauvinism, along with its inbred kissing cousin, evangelical consumerism.

I think they exagerate a bit, but it does poke holes in the way haughty religous people can be so smug despite other people’s suffering. This book was a win-win because my artist wife loves the illustrations and I love the story (actually we both love both). Plus, it only cost $4.00.

So, next time you are out on the town stop at the bookstore try random books.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).