the-lost-art-of-browsinghappy-1Yesterday my son and I went to our local library, the one in the county in which we live, not the one in the next county over, where I work.  I like to take him to the library and let him pick out some things himself, as opposed to me bringing home items from my workplace library (which I do regularly.)  He chooses books and dvds rather quickly, almost haphazardly, although occasionally he will plop right down in the floor in front of the stacks and read a book to himself.  (That brings me no end of delight, as you can imagine.)

My husband asked me to choose a book or two for him.  He’s a reader, but not voracious (obsessive?) like I am.  He’ll read a book over a couple of weeks, and when he’s finished he may not pick up another book for a month or more.  (I know, it’s hard for me to fathom!) He doesn’t read fiction (!) but instead enjoys biography, memoir, history, and sports books.  It’s hard to find a book about baseball that the man hasn’t read.

While I was looking for a biography for him, I kept finding things that appealed to me. And I was struck by a feeling of nostalgia for something that I hadn’t even realized that I was missing.  I miss browsing.  I almost never browse anymore.  Between my library holds list, my massive TBR, and the books I own but haven’t yet read, I don’t make time to wander the stacks and choose a book on a whim.

I realize that part of this may stem from the fact that I often have a busy and impatient five year-old with me, but I don’t blame it on him.  It’s my own fault entirely that I’ve let browsing go by the wayside.  Years ago, I didn’t have a massive TBR list.  I didn’t keep 15 items on my library hold list and constantly fiddle with it in order to ensure that they don’t all come in at one time.  I allowed myself the pleasure (and the risk) of selecting books based on the jacket copy and my mood.

I’ve found myself thinking about my reading goals for next year, and chief among them is making room for browsing and random picks.  I have even considered erasing my Goodreads TBR, but I can’t quite do it yet. ( I have this fear that I’ll forget about these great sounding books and then where will I be??  Oh wait, I’ll be browsing.  I’ve got to ponder this further.)  But I was thinking that I could set a goal to read a random whim pick once a month.  Wait – that sounds funny.  Set a goal to be more random!  Clearly, I’ve got control issues, but I didn’t even realize how it extended to my reading life.  You can see why I’ve not yet let myself request ARCs.  I’ve got enough issues already!

Do you browse libraries or bookstores regularly and select items based on mood?  Or have you forgotten that you used to enjoy it, like me?  Can you imagine getting rid of your TBR list, or does the thought make you panic a little bit?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



22 thoughts on “Browsing

  1. I have exactly the same problem; I used to just read whatever looked good but now I hardly ever just pick something up on a whim. Your post has made me think how nice it would be to go back to that; I think I’ll make an effort to do more browsing and off-the-cuff reading from now on!

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  2. Ooohh BROWSING – I can’t remember the last time I did that!!!

    I wonder if the (though extremely useful) increase in e-books and e-book venders have lessened the amount of actual physical browsing people do? (I am drawing a line between online browsing and physical browsing, because, well, I don’t feel like they are quite the same thing – although others may disagree)

    I can borrow so many e-books from my local library – which lead to further recommendations (the if-you-read-this-you’ll-love-this in particular), that I tend not to go into the bricks and mortar building that much any more… I miss randomly walking by shelves and spines catching my eye! I am going to have to make an effort to do it more. Serendipitous book finds in stacks are part of what makes reading so delightful – thank you for the reminder 🙂

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    1. Yay, Valancy! I’m glad to have reminded you of the pleasures of browsing! I definitely think the rise and ease of e-books has contributed to a decrease in browsing among heavy readers. It’s wonderful to have so many choices at your fingertips, but I’m sure your local library will be glad to see you in the flesh!


  3. I’ve done exactly that, made a plan to be less-planny. It’s worked brilliantly, although I suppose, ideally, it would simply happen plan-lessly. Good luck with the “scheduled whimsy experiment!”

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  4. I love to browse and have found myself doing a lot less of it lately for many reasons. Although I do still do a lot of browsing for the kids, which feels almost as good.
    I still try to browse at the library, even if I don’t actually pick much of it up – sometimes it’s fun just to look. And one of the reasons I love used book stores and book sales so much is because of the browsing. In this case, I can allow myself the indulgence of bringing home a few books even if I know I won’t read them right away.
    Good luck with your plans!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Naomi, I’m glad to hear from someone who is still browsing! Used book stores are so wonderful and so tempting! We have a good one nearby but I don’t get there often enough – and when I do, my son is tugging at me to look at the kids books and games (they sell used board games too.) Kudos for using your library!

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  5. I use to browse all the time! And I still do when I discover a new bookshop or if I go into a used bookstore I haven’t been to in awhile. But even when browsing, I find myself pulled towards authors I know I like. Which I didn’t use to do… maybe I need to get out of my comfort zone some? Also that slowed down once I discovered the OverDrive app that links to my library 😳 put them on hold directly from my couch?! Yes ma’am! 😆 so yea, I completely understand!

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  6. At the library, once my 2.5yo has settled down in a corner with a pile of books, I do browse for a full… 3 minutes, but it’s a children library, so I often take a nice looking YA and end up not reading it more often than not. Browsing often feels like falling prey of the cover art, so I don’t regret doing it less than before the internet age.

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  7. I used to browse all the time but never do it anymore. My husband and I used to have dates at the bookstore or library and we’d spend hours browsing but when the bookstore started having fewer books and more stuff like games, etc and the library remodeled and didn’t have as much shelf space, we stopped browsing. Now and then when we go to a used bookstore we will browse but we have so many books at home that we have nearly stopped buying new ones, making requests from the library instead. Now I keep a huge TBR list and my in-person browsing has shifted to list browsing. Not the same, but it has to do.

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  8. I was thinking this recently too. I used to love browsing the library shelves when I was young. I went every Saturday morning, browsed for an hour, picked my books for the week, and then if it was nice, I’d buy a sandwich and go read in the park for an hour or two. Then working life kicked in and things became too manic – Saturdays became a rush round the supermarket and a frenzy of housework. Now that I no longer work I don’t really have an excuse any more – I should browse while we still have a library to browse in. Many of the authors who’ve brought me a lifetime of pleasure were first stumbled over on library shelves… I know I joke about my TBR but it does tend to make us always feel “behind” in our reading, something I never used to feel.

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    1. I enjoyed your thoughts, FictionFan. I do wonder about the weight of that TBR and what it does to our reading. I’m sure there are some out there for whom a TBR doesn’t feel like pressure. But that’s not me! Still, I can’t seem to get rid of mine.

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  9. I love browsing but I find it hard to do just in the stacks at libraries — for one thing I can’t see the covers (which is what I often go by), and for another thing there’s just SO MUCH THERE and it makes it hard for me to pick anything out of the blur. I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it just now, but I realize that I never EVER used to browse at the library when it was in the old location, and I do it a lot more now in the new location, which has a more extensive bunch of “New Books” shelves. They have double-sided bookshelves full of new books from various genres, and my library routine these days is to select a few things from my TBR list to check out and then spend the rest of my visit browsing through the new books shelves.

    I have honestly been slightly cranky about the change from my old library location to my new one, but writing this is making me feel grateful for the new place. Browsing is nice.

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  10. I like the sound of a random whim pick of the month! That’d be a fun project, but I don’t think I could commit to something like that quite yet. Perhaps I could do a random pick of the dozens of unread books I already own? lol
    Anyway, I do browse occasionally. When I go to the bookstore, I rarely leave with only 1 book in hand. Usually, I go in with 1 or 2 books I’m sure I want to buy, then I wander around for a bit and end up finding a book that catches my eye because I’d read a review or had seen it on Twitter or it had been on my TBR for ages. So yeah, I do still browse sometimes. A couple of months ago, I even went to my library bookstore to browse for books on sale! That counts, right? Because I had no idea what books would be on display, so I literally browsed through all the Adult + YA section for books I recognized or found interesting. It was soo much fun.

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    1. Naz, one of my OTHER reading goals for next year is to read more of the books that I own and haven’t yet read. So I think choosing randomly (blindfolded? lottery pick?) from the ones you’ve got on hand isn’t a bad idea at all! I’m glad to hear that you’ve got a library bookstore. We’ve got an ongoing book sale at our main library branch. I never go there, though. Sounds like you had fun!


  11. I rarely browse the library stacks anymore, though I always browse the new arrivals and library sale books when I go in to pick up my holds. But honestly, I feel like my whole book life is browsing: used bookstores, library sales, blogs, review sites. I have disorganized lists of books on Amazon and Goodreads, and stacks of TBRs I have collected from this activity. I am always more amazed when I see lists of books bloggers post that about what they are going to read in the next month or so. Do they stick to it? My best laid reading plans are always interrupted by some newly discovered book that I suddenly want to read right now. And then I flit to the next one like a drunk butterfly…

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    1. I like how you describe your bookish life as one of constant browsing. That’s a good way to look at it. I’m not very good at planning my reading (unless I’m participating in a challenge) but it seems like my library holds list does a lot of my planning for me. Hence the decision to try and be more whimsical! I enjoyed reading your comments, RareBird!

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