Book quest

Catalonia celebrates today Sant Jordi, the traditional day dedicated to books and roses. Tradition says boys must give girls a red rose and girls must buy boys a book. It’s the day of the year with the most books sold, 7% of the total quantity of the sales in the whole year, as statistics puts it. And then, the question is: what to sell and what to buy on a day like this, that decides best sellers, best books, and most successful authors?

Books stands are packed with books that lay there in the sun waiting to be grabbed, opened, skimmed through, taken home or simply put back on the stand. Visitors, eager to religiously respect the tradition, are wrestling to get a position in the front row and have a chance to see the literary novelties, pick their choice for this year’s “Sant Jordi’s book” and go home (or to the nearest terrace) and declare a new year of successful celebration. But, how do you know what to buy? Firstly, because the book you choose is supposed to be a present and we all know how difficult is to make someone’s a present, how taste is so different, so person-dependent and can punch us in the face even when we think we know that someone’s taste.

I found myself in this position today, even though I wasn’t looking for a book to give. I was simply wondering what is worth buying and how people know this. To sum up a bit my expertise gathered after a day out there in the crowd, looking at books, I would say there are three categories of buyers: the first one, is for those who do not know what they want to buy, they go out and see what there is to find. Sort of market testing, if I may. The second one is reserved for the ones that know their business. They have checked the books reviews before, watched informative TV programs that are meant to serve as a guide for this year’s book harvest. Some come to the book stand with all the books they want, written on a creased piece of paper, that has turned brownish from all the folding and unfolding; others, simply flip out the mobile phone and show the vendor a shiny screen with the book cover on it. This is their choice. And there are some that simply want to buy the books-of-the-moment-that-everybody-talks-about and nothing more.

So, how do we come to terms with all that? It is difficult for writers, readers, publishing houses, critics and others. How do you know what to promote on a day like this?

In the huge amount of options we have, it is easy to be carried away with the flow and buy what “you are supposed to buy” or to get completely lost in the blurry line between good writing and magic-formulas-that-sell. I would like to hear how you choose your books, what authors you like, what books you love and what you think it’s worth reading. I would love to discover new authors, not mainstream but talented, passionate, sparkling and brilliant.

 

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