I was on a mission. Maybe not as serious as that “mission from god” that Jake and Elwood Blues embarked on, but still a mission. My goal: to buy a new book for myself, not a gift for someone else, which is my usual reason for purchasing a freshly printed collection of bound pages. So after a few minutes of rare sunny day river-watching I turned my back on the River Lee and its view of three churches to walk into Cork’s Vibes & Scribes, where I knew I’d find inspiration.

Of course I looked at the discount table by the front door. I think it’s de rigueur for bookstores to have one these days. Freshly printed new books and reprints at discount prices. But no, my mission today is to buy a new book at full price. You see, the other part of my mission is to spend money that actually contributes to supporting the writer who’s responsible for my pleasure. I want something recently published that I probably would never see in the library or second-hand shop. [Sorry, Michelle.] A quick look at the recent arrivals gave me some ideas, but nothing jumped out to say, “Buy me! Take me home with you. Now! Today!” And even if they did, there was a whole store to wander. The art books?  My coffee table’s not big enough and I still have memories of wonderful exhibits and beautiful books with bindings I barely cracked. No, not today. And all those fiction reprints. Freshly printed, discount-priced editions of authors I’ve read and loved. But not today. [Besides, I know I can get the few I haven’t read next door in the used book store for even less.]

A random stroll around the room yields no candidates. I’m simply overwhelmed. There are too many options and I don’t know enough. Like a lot of contemporary music, it might be something I’d absolutely love, but I just don’t recognize the artist or their work. While I know the saleswoman would be wonderfully helpful, I’m lost. I don’t know enough to ask her a question because I really don’t know what I want.

But then there are the welcome distractions. [Is it a distraction if it might lead me to something I’ll value?] I loved listening to the half-phone conversation of a staff member educating a caller and then placing a special order; and to another customer exclaiming to a friend over the discovery of something they’d never suspected and thinking of how many additional copies to buy as gifts. Oh, and then there were the people who don’t come into the store. I had mixed feelings about the mom on a mission to someplace else, pulling her kid from the window. He was pointing and talking about a book she “needed to see”.

Do I want to select from a genre I’ve read before –the same only different? Or should I venture into a new world? There’s nothing in history or any of the other departments that look like a stand-alone read. If I bought one, I’d get so engrossed in the topic that I’d need to buy more – or perhaps enroll in a university evening course. I’ve been known to do that before.

Finally, I’m back to the new releases. And my flavour of the day? Origins: How the Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell. I haven’t read any Jared Diamond books in a long time and this looks like it’ll fit the genre. We’ll see. Anyway, it felt good. A new, recently published book in hand, a gift for myself.

And now the question of the day. Will I start reading it tonight? Or should I finish the bedside fiction that’s still got another few nights in it?  


This piece is just one of a number I’ve written about my long-term love affair with books. If you’d like to see more simply click on the “Books” category below. You can also subscribe, so that you’ll see these blogs as they’re written, as opposed to social media’s algorithms. As the saying goes, if you like my writing, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell your enemies.