Monday, September 1, 2014

Little Books with Big Ideas

A week or so ago, I stopped in at my local independent Christian bookstore (Hearts and Minds, for those of you who live nearby) to see if they'd been able to get my book in stock. They had and it had sold, so they promised to order another copy. Business complete, I moved on to my next serious order of business: browsing.

I'm not being sarcastic. If you've ever been to Hearts and Minds, you know that browsing there is serious business. I have never seen a "first-run" bookstore so completely full of books. Single copies of eclectic titles abound, and you're likely to find something there you've never run across before. A few minutes of your time will barely make a dent in all the store has to offer, which makes it a wonderful place to just browse and soak up all the store has to offer.

And so I had a dilemma. As an author, I want to support independent book stores, especially when they are kind enough to support me. As a resident of the area, I want to support local businesses. But as a lover of books, I'm already overrun. I have stacks of to-be read books and magazines in various places throughout my house, not to mention on my Kindle and iPad. So while I didn't want to leave empty-handed, I needed to find something that I truly had a chance of reading before my daughter graduates from college.

No problem.

Since the semester was starting, and I had psychology on the brain, I began in the psychology section. Even when my house is overrun with reading material, I can always justify books that qualify -- no matter how loosely -- as teaching resources.

I wasn't disappointed. I found not just one book, but a whole series of books that are interesting, easy reads and can be perused in small chunks of time (this was almost a Friday Freebie post :-) Oh, and one other book just for fun.

The books are part of a series with the subtitle, "A Very Short Introduction." Written by various authors who are experts in a particular area, each small, thin paperback covers a big subject in small segments. Though the books are petite, they're of good quality with a substantial dust jacket-type cover that mimics those found on hard cover books. In addition, and (once again) despite their size, the print is clear and of a decent size on bright, white paper. I rarely pick up anything smaller than a trade book any more because reading tiny, easily smudged print in what we used to call "drugstore paperbacks" is just too much work.

The first book I chose was Psychology: A Very Short Introduction, and I've been reading the chapters that correspond to the topics I'm teaching as I plan each unit. Impressively comprehensive, the short chapters really help me to focus, shaping vast amounts of information into key ideas and concepts, expanding and contracting the ideas in the textbook.

The second book, part of the same series, was also psychology- related (during the semester, 90% of what I read is). Happiness: A Short Introduction promises to be an optimistic and informative read, particularly as I zero in on the topics of stress and, well, happiness with my freshmen.

Inside the cover is a five page list all of the books available in the series -- topics ranging from African History to Fashion. These petite volumes, likely to get lost among the multiple copies of mammoth best-sellers in a more traditional bookstore, were little gems that sparkled on the shelves of a store that has a little bit of everything. Not only were they just what I was looking for, but I can't wait to go back and find a few more.

Oh, and the book that was just for fun? A small, hardcover book by John Perry called The Art of Procrastination.

But more about that later.

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