You know what you can't get when you buy books from Amazon? I'd forgotten it myself, to be honest. I shouldn't have. It's something so important that I'm ashamed of not recalling this.
When you go to a physical bookstore, you gather together the books you want to purchase. Then you go to the counter to pay for them. The clerk starts zapping your bar codes with the laser reader. And then he or she comes upon one of your selections, and he or she says, "Oh! You love this author's work?!" Or, "I love this book! Let me know what you think of it!" Or something along those lines.
Yesterday I went to Anderson's in Naperville because it's been a while since I've gone to an indie bookstore. Longtime readers might recall that I routinely give this advice: go to an indie bookstore once a month. I fucked up. I'm sorry. But I went yesterday for the first time in a while. I selected books by Bonnie McFarlane, Larry Wilmore, Patton Oswalt and a collection of John Wayne's personal letters. I took them to the desk, and the clerk started zapping the bar codes.
Then she came to Larry Wilmore's book of essays, and she said, "Oh! I love this show! Do you watch this show?" And we spent the next five minutes talking about how awesome Larry Wilmore and The Nightly Show is. This conversation charged me up. I'd completely forgotten about how fucking cool these conversations are.
The last time I went to Anderson's (this one in Downers Grove), I purchased Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN, and when I went to the counter, I had a wonderful discussion of the controversy about Atticus Finch in this book.
Rewind about ten or fifteen years. I used to work at my local library. Most of my employment there was spent as a page, but the last few years were as a desk clerk. Whenever someone checked out a book I thoroughly enjoyed or a new book by a writer I respect, I always struck up a conversation with them.
I miss that. I really do.
Amazon is pretty cool. They always have what I want. But the indie bookstores are the best. I will never have a book conversation with someone from Amazon as I make my purchase. Once again I advise you all to go to an indie bookstore at least once a month. I hope you do better at that than I usually do.