I’m a dedicated online shopper. I want to support small businesses and shop local, and I do try, but especially this time of year when the weather gets bad and the parking lots get crazy, and I’ve got a dozen different types of things to find for a dozen different people, it is almost too convenient to be able to log on to my computer in the comfort of my own home and scroll through hundreds of options, all of which will be delivered to my doorstep in a matter of days…hopefully with free shipping!
Not every purchase I make comes from Amazon, but I am a frequent flyer, and be it clothes, food, clothes, homegoods, clothes…you get the picture, I’ve probably tried online ordering at least once. Not everything works out every time, but I’ve established a good enough track record that I keep clicking back.
Admittedly, between home building, and doing two high school musicals in 2019, and now Christmas, our postman must really hate us. Josh has gotten used to a seemingly constant stream of packages on the porch. So a few weeks ago when, after going out to dinner, he asked what I’d like to do since we missed our movie time, I’m sure it shocked even him when I suggested we go to the mall. More specifically, we went to Barnes and Noble.
As a book lover and an English teacher, there is no one who likes an honest to goodness, solidly bound, crisp paged, physical book in her hands than me. Still, it confounds me how Barnes and Noble has survived this long in a digitized, eBook, streaming world. I’m glad they have, don’t get me wrong, but as we walked across the parking lot 45 minutes before they were set to close, Josh wondered aloud how much longer they could keep it up. At least we were there to help keep the lights on at least one more minute because we intended to leave with brand spanking new, hard cover books!
Think about the last time you actually bought a book. If it wasn’t recently then I have to tell you, books are expensive! For what we ended up paying for two recently released hardcover books, we could have gone to two movies including popcorn. However, I’d like to believe we’re getting hours more entertainment out of our investment than the movie tickets. If money is of issue, you can easily do the Barnes and Noble date cheaper than a movie ticket, just set a limit on the amount of money you can spend on the books chosen. Anything under about $15 is less than the price of admission!
The rules otherwise are simple: Choose two books. Buy them. Pick one for each person to start with. Read them. Switch.
There are, again, variations on how the choosing can happen. We agreed on two titles that sounded pretty interesting to both of us. Then we went home and sparred over who got to read what first. If you and your significant other have vastly different interests, you might each choose something that you’re interested to read individually. Read it first…than switch! Or, force yourself to switch first and read the other person’s book, then reward yourself with the book you picked second. The key is that both you and your partner read both books!
Josh and I are currently at the switch point in our Barnes and Noble date. We’ve each read one selection. I started with The Silent Patient, an excellent murder mystery about a woman who kills her husband then goes completely silent in the decade that follows. Josh read The Starless Sea, the recently published second novel from Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus. Consequently, The Night Circus was one of the first books that both of us read, switched, and talked about together. Josh tends more towards high fantasy and magic reads. I bounce all over, though the only true “high fantasy” I’ve ever read is probably Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, and magic, for me, always mean Harry Potter. 😃 Still The Night Circus managed to have a little something in it for both of us, and we each enjoyed in thoroughly. Josh assures me the second book is as good, though he is also insanely good at betraying nothing of the details when I ask him questions about it. Meanwhile, I had to get through the end of The Silent Patient betraying nothing of the details of where the twists were and what red herrings had me fooled through the whole story.
Now that he’s about to start the book, I feel like I’m walking around with a delicious secret that I’m waiting for him to discover. I desperately want to see if he’ll predict the ending. I don’t know that he’s dying to see me start The Starless Sea, but the fact that he devoured it as quickly as he did has me anxious to start.
On our way home for Thanksgiving last week, listened to a podcast by John Green in which he referenced an essay by poet Donald Hall. Green quotes Hall as having written:
“We did not spend our days gazing into each other’s eyes. We did that gazing when we made love or when one of us was in trouble, but most of the time our gazes met and entwined as they looked at a third thing. Third things are essential to marriages, objects or practices or habits or arts or institutions or games or human beings that provide a site of joint rapture or contentment. Each member of a couple is separate; the two come together in double attention. Lovemaking is not a third thing but two-in-one. John Keats can be a third thing, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or Dutch interiors, or Monopoly…”Originally published October 2005
Josh and I have some tried and true third things: friends we share; good bottles of wine; Chinese checkers; music; travel. We have third things we share, like building our house, that enthrall us for this season of life, but will, hopefully someday soon, come to completion!
But the Barnes and Noble date is a renewable third thing. A pursuable third thing! For two weeks those books have had our attention, have affected our nightly routine, have infused our conversations. And breathing new, different life into those areas would be as easy as picking two books off the shelf.
And if you’re really not into committing to a whole book, well then maybe consider reading the rest of Donald Hall’s article “The Third Thing.” And if nothing else, share that with your partner to talk about. Because if it’s not a book, it should be something. And if there’s not something, then maybe you should start with a book!