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11/05/2011 / melgardener

Russian roulette…with books

As an avid reader, one of my worst nightmares is suddenly discovering that I’ve run out of reading material. My heart pounds, I break out in a cold sweat and I frantically go through my bookshelves desperately hoping a new book will have appeared by magic. Then I panic and email everyone I know for book recommendations.

If you love books, there’s a very good chance you also love book shops. The opportunity to spend hours in a veritable Aladdin’s cave, scouring shelves in the search of new reading material gives me pleasure such as little else can. I become lightheaded in the face of access to so many words and I almost don’t know where to start.

One of my favourite aspects of a book shop is the ability to peruse hundreds of books in a few minutes as I sweep my eyes across the shelves in search of something that grabs my eye. I always keep an eye out for my favourite writers, constantly checking if they have released anything new, but I also love to look for new authors. I’m not a discriminatory reader and I have wide-ranging tastes – I’ll read everything from Stephen King to Marian Keyes to Tim Flannery and Dr Carl Sagan.

I have a mixed reaction to the advent of online book stores. While I love the ease of online shopping, I miss the tactile, tangible aspect of a book shop.

So I decided to challenge myself, to make online book shopping more enjoyable and more interesting. Each time I go online to order a new book, I think of a random word (it must be the first word that pops into my head) and type it into the search section. Then I scroll through the results and pick a completely unknown book to try.

In some cases the results have been abject failure but in others I’ve discovered absolute gems which I never would have tried otherwise. At the moment I’m deep in the throes of one of my Russian roulette books. Called “The Five People you Meet in Heaven”, it was written by Mitch Albom of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame.

The book has a very simple premise – when you die, you meet five people in Heaven who explain your life and help you come to terms with dying. Contrary to the title, this is not a religious novel. Certainly God and Heaven are mentioned but this is not a story that preaches, nor does it identify with any particular religion. We are introduced to the main character, Eddie, a war veteran who is in charge of maintenance at Ruby Pier, a seaside amusement park. As the story unfolds, we walk with Eddie through his last minutes then travel with him as he meets his five people. I laughed and I cried – it’s a beautiful story that is about finding peace at the end of your life.

Do you have a favourite story? A book that touched you or opened your eyes? Do you ever play Russian roulette with books?

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