Echolocation in Libraries

February 25, 2010

Last week I was wandering through the library in search of a good book. It was frustrating for while; I couldn’t find one. But since I was in a library, I figured it had to be possible.

At first, I looked in the vicinity of an author I enjoyed but had read too much of in the past year, and that didn’t work. Next, I hunted by genre, searching out authors I knew, but didn’t find anything I hadn’t already read. After I gave up on that, I found a relatively new book by one of my favorite YA fantasy authors (Patricia C. Wrede–and I recommend Calling on Dragons, for a start), but I can’t remember what the heck I was doing in the Ws.

That’s when I started thinking about how I’d made some of my best library finds in the past. For example, there was the day I got lost in a huge university library and stumbled on The Silence of the Lambs. I was thoroughly devoted to sci-fi and fantasy at the time, and that book opened up a new and fascinating world that was terrifyingly similar to the real one.

I had stopped midway down one aisle, and was looking around. No idea why; I really wanted to get out, but I kept looking until I saw the book that held two of my favorite-characters-to-be. I couldn’t even read the spine at that distance. It just looked… attractive, in spite of being the standard library book brown.

So, Ms. Wrede in hand, I imagined I was back in that enormous library, and slowly turned so I could see more of the shelf in front of me. It worked! One spine caught my attention, and this time I could read the title: Those Who Favor Fire. The author got it from a Robert Frost poem, and she put it to good use. I like Frost, I liked that poem, and I enjoyed the book.

I was perhaps happier than it made sense to be, on my way out of the library with my prizes. I felt like I had successfully stalked and downed something I was going to eat that night.

How do you do it? Aimless wandering, the traditional browse, echolocation?

P.S. Fire‘s Publishers Weekly review on Amazon contains spoilers.