Things To Do With Books #27

For this month’s entry we have a simple, yet fun exercise that can really spice up your book reading with minimal effort on your part. We here at The Institute For Things To Do With Books call it the self-induced deja vu. Here’s how it goes. Next time you find yourself in a book store – which, if you are anything like us, happens with frightening regularity, and often when least expected – go out into the fiction stacks and find a book that meets the following criteria: you have not read it; you have no immediate intentions to read it (which includes having it already on your shelf at home, having a hold on it at the library, or having dropped obvious hints around friends and family members as your birthday/gift-giving holidays approach); and, finally, you can see yourself reading said book somewhere down the line, say in two, three, or five years.

Once you have found a book that satisfies these guidelines, open the book to a random page, somewhere after page 50 but not much farther than page 200. Now read a full paragraph from this page. There. That’s everything needed on your end. Close the book and place it back on the shelf. And now the waiting portion of the exercise begins (warning: the majority of this exercise is waiting). With any luck, over time you will not only forget the details of the paragraph you read, but the very fact of you taking the book from the shelf at all will have receded far enough into your mind that it might as well have never happened. Now, if you ever do happen to read the book, when you finally get to that paragraph, you will hopefully experience any or all of the following sensations: having already read the book, which you know is impossible; having dreamed the book; confusion; excitement; floored by the deep unending mysteries of the world. In other words, deja vu, surging like a sugary drug through your entire being. This is what we here at The Institute like to call ‘the payoff.’

There are some further considerations for those interested in carrying out this exercise. Since there is always the chance the book you chose might never find its way into your hands, we suggest repeating the exercise as many times as it takes, with as many books at as many bookstores, until you’re comfortable with your odds. Finally, our researchers have discovered that this exercise works better when carried out in used book stores, though any local, independent place will work just as well. If needed – and only in extreme situations – a big box chain will suffice, though we have had reports that the payoff in these cases is dulled, diluted (as far as we can determine there is no scientific reason for the phenomenon; but such is the way of books).

The bottom line, as always, is have fun! If you enjoyed this exercise be sure to let us know. And don’t forget, if you pass this on to the members of your bookclub or graduate seminar, be sure to credit us here at The Institute For Things To Do With Books. Your acknowledgement, as always, will be much appreciated.