Every day at the bookstore people find books they love. Oftentimes people come in on a quest, a ritual that might get repeated in every store they visit. Over and over again. We all know them, the people who loved a book so much as a kid that they spend much of their adult lives looking for it. Every once in a while someone finds that book in our store; the fates align and the book falls into the hands of the eager, long-seeking reader.
Such a thing happened this week. The Next Door Cafe in our building employs a lovely early 20-something who unbeknownst to me had been on a long quest for a book. The book was read to her in first grade by a beloved teacher whom Brianna is still in touch with, mainly to ask yearly if Mrs. Watson remembered the book she read aloud 16 years ago. Brianna could only remember that there was a dragon on the cover and it was about a boy. This quest was a solitary one for young Brianna. She went to bookstores and searched dejected almost before she started, because she was convinced the book would never appear. She was convinced she would recognize it when she saw it.
I’ve been on a quest like Brianna’s. In my case my beloved fifth-grade silent reading book, The Great Brain, was the elusive grail. I just remember loving it and only being able to remember snippets of escapades from the book. I wanted to reread the book in eighth grade and couldn’t come with more than Utah. Honestly, I think this clue would have been enough for many of my contemporary bookselling cohorts, but back then it was a mystery. It remained a mystery until graduate school when one of my classmates was talking about a book about brothers in Utah. I cried out “Aha!!! Finally! It’s the Great Brain!” I was ecstatic.
Cut back to our young heroine, Brianna. She worked at the cafe on Saturday. A customer bought a paperback of My Father’s Dragon. I thought nothing of this, since we sell that book often. An hour later, Jesse, the manager of the cafe, came in and asked, ”Would you order me My Father’s Dragon? I want to get it for Brianna. She went crazy when someone laid it on the counter when they ordered lunch. She kept going on about “This is the book. This is it!!” The plot thickens because Jesse told us to let Brianna order the book for herself, but tell her it would be coming at the end of the week, not yesterday. He wanted to surprise her with it before he moved on to his new job.
True to what Jesse said, Brianna hopped in around five on Saturday to order the book. Her eyes were bright with the peace that comes from finally finding *the* book. We let her tell us the story Jesse had already shared. She was so excited to get the book, it was almost too cute. The book came in yesterday, and Jesse came in to pick it up. He was going to give it Brianna after the cafe closed at four. I swear we heard a massive whoop and some shouting at two past four. All over the book-loving world there was a tiny sigh of relief. Then someone came in asking if we “carried the book about the elephant and the circus” that he’d read as a child. And it started all over again.
Has there ever been a book you’ve obsessed about finding again?