My local public library is sponsoring a program this month called “Blind Date with a Book.” This is apparently not a brand new program; libraries have been doing this for a few years, and there are websites where you can purchase books based only on a very short description. But this was my first encounter with the phenomenon.
I saw a description of the program on the library’s website, so I made it a point to visit the library last week. On a table in the center of the room, they have a display of books wrapped in bright red paper and decorated with valentine stickers. Each book contains a label that gives clues about the contents of the book and a suggested age range for readers. The idea is to select a book based only on the somewhat cryptic description. The “bait” is that you may discover a new genre or author to add to your reading list. That, and a prize drawing at the end of the month for anyone who fills out and turns in a rating form for their “blind date.”
My first blind date was an audio book. It was described as one of the most challenged books to appear on Oprah’s recommendation list. I listen to a lot of audio books while I’m driving, so I decided to give it a try. After checking out the book, I unwrapped it in my car and found The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I had not been aware of the book when it was first published in 1993, and I wondered if it would feel dated to listen to it in 2018. A closer look at the box of CDs revealed that one of the readers was the author herself. I was completely drawn into the world of the main characters from the first moment. I laughed, I cried, I recognized familiar situations and I struggled to absorb foreign ones. As a “blind date,” I call this a success. I would spend time with Ms. Morrison and her books again.
Today I returned that audio book and chose a print book. It was described as a suspense novel set in a time when “crimes weren’t solved with DNA evidence.” There was something about the description that made me wonder if I had read it before; so I picked a backup book just in case. If my first choice was one I had already read, I would return it (still wrapped in red paper) and check out the backup. No need for the backup, however. I had not yet read The Alienist by Caleb Carr, had not heard of it in fact. From the summary on the book jacket, I learned that the title derives from a term used to describe psychologists in the 1890s. Only one of my Goodreads friends has read the book, so it feels a bit like I’m breaking new ground (kind of the point of a blind date, I guess). I haven’t started reading the book yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
I have really enjoyed this “blind date” idea; I had become a little too comfortable with my short list of familiar authors and genres. This has been an enjoyable way to step into some new arenas for my reading this year.