On the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 14, a single table caught curious students’ attention as they shuffled in and out of the atrium’s main entrance. On it sat a turquoise, plastic bucket filled with individually-wrapped heart shaped candies. But surrounding the bucket were the real treats — 90 newspaper-wrapped novels up for grabs for anyone who wanted to be set up with a new read.
The books were donated by ZSR Librarians and staff as a part of their second-annual Valentine’s Day themed “Blind Date with a Book” event. The librarians and staff donate books from their personal collections as well as those picked up at conferences. This effort to encourage leisure reading and pair readers with literary works that match their interests first began in September 2016 as a part of the “Arive and THRIVE” event.
Bookmarks, an independent bookstore located in Downtown Winston-Salem through the alley of Fourth Street, also seemed to be hopping on the trend. A sign in the middle of a few shelves with brand-new, wrapped books on display read, “Recently book-single and ready to mingle? Go on a blind date with a book!”
On the back of each was a barcode with a price for the book’s purchase.
For college students running to and from the library, the free and repurposed books in the ZSR were an easy sell. It only took two and a half hours for 90 people to walk away with a book that piqued their interest.
Looking across the sneak previews written on each book, there seemed to be something for everyone. The pop-up bookshop featured a spread of genres from biographies to mysteries to romance novels to historical non-fiction. The handwritten descriptions themselves also varied in length and intrigue.
Some gave seductive snippets of romance novels.
“Fascinating love story, complex heroine, famous architect (and the woman who loved him). <3 Fiction with the heft of truth,” read the label that first caught my eye.
Others were simple but stand-out.
“Page turner. Intrigue. Murder in the highest levels,” another read.
I stood around the table for 20 minutes trying to make my decision. There were so many to choose from. Eventually, I landed on, “Angsty teenage life in 1970s North Carolina; <3 and obsession with local guitarist. Rich, intense, interesting read.”
I started peeling away at the edges of the tightly wrapped newspaper before I even took my seat on the fourth floor on the library. I ripped open the remaining parts of the packaging like a kid on Christmas morning. The slighlty tattered cover introduced me to my blind date: A Slipping Down Life by Anne Tyler. The familiar, used-book smell emerged from the novel as I flipped through the faded pages.
Though I haven’t read for leisure much during my collegiate years, unwrapping this novel took me back to those I spent as a young girl with my nose constantly in books. I was reminded of the days I would spend lying on pillows in my church library reading Harry Potter or daydreaming about the storylines of the Magic Tree House. There’s something to be said for small events like these that bring parts of ourselves back to life — and for faculty and staff who make that happen on our campus.