Shannon Dittemore



It would belittle the folks with dangerous addictions to begin this blog with the expected, “My name is Shannon and I’m a book-a-holic.”

So, I won’t do it. Instead, I’ll tell you about my trip to the bookstore today.

When it comes to buying books, it is almost always best to let your gut lead the way. Some will argue that you must force yourself to read outside your comfort zone, but like many others before me, I must take a stand. Life is way too short to read something you maybe, sort of, kinda seem interested in (much less, hate). Besides, the more you read, especially recreationally, the more your interests will spread. I have read so much that I am a fairly wide reader. But I began with what I liked and, as I grew, my interests widened. Yours will too.

Back to today. I woke up needing a new book (don’t question the word need; go with it, friends). I just finished reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” and am taking a brief hiatus from my own manuscript. Thus, the need. I loaded up the kids, dropped my kindergartner off at school, and then made my way to the bookstore with my one-year-old in tow.

It’s important to note that not all bookstores are created equal. The Barnes and Noble on Sunrise is the second best bookstore in the entire world. The Powell’s Books on 20th and Burnside in downtown Portland is the absolute best bookstore, but that’s a bit of a drive from Citrus Heights, so I’ve replaced it with Barnes and Noble. Again, these things can’t be explained. You just love a bookstore or you don’t. Don’t fight it. If you hate the smell or the layout of one, find another. This isn’t rocket science. Though, if your bookstore doesn’t have a cafe, you might as well start looking for a new one. Coffee isn’t a prerequisite for finding a good book, but coffee makes everything better. Books included. That being my philosophy, I always enter B&N via the connected Starbucks. Of course, I’d prefer Stumptown, but this is what we have here in the suburbs. Besides, it’s really about the books.

Once the coffee is nestled into the cup-holder of Jazlyn’s stroller, and once I’ve poked the tiny straw through the tin-foil dot on her juice box, we set off. The first thing that distracts me is the office supply section. “Why do bookstores have these stumbling blocks?” you ask. Because of crazy book people, like me. I never pass this section without drooling all over the fancy paperweights and handy book-lights. But, drool is usually all I do here. I have two kids. Paperweights closely resemble grenades and might get thrown. Plus, I can hardly keep all the noisy toys at home in batteries. Why torture myself with a book-light?

Pressing on, I allow my hand to graze the surface of the bargain books. Jaz too, so after I’ve wiped the juice and goldfish crackers off their covers, I make my way to the General Fiction section. This is a yummy and rather large grouping of shelves. So many of my favorite authors sit here: Jodi Piccoult, Jane Austen, Stephen King, and Arthur Golden, among many, many others. I simply pass through today, though my fingers itch to grab a novel here and there. But, I have a book in mind and the one-year-old isn’t going to last long. She’s already straining at the wimpy straps holding her into the stroller. You see, she knows there are Thomas Trains to play with in the Children’s section. But we have a few more aisles to trawl before I can release her.

After ensuring that nothing new has been placed on the Christian Fiction shelves (sadly, that’s often the case with this section), I move to the Young Adult section. These shelves are the ones that give me the butterflies. One day, whenever my book is published, I imagine it will land here. At least I hope it will (and hope is very important). Today, however, I’m looking for the “The Book Thief,” by Marcus Zusak. I know it’s here. I’ve seen it a zillion times–even picked it up, read the back, placed it in the stroller, and then taken it back out.

Book choice, like I said before, should be dictated by your gut. “The Book Thief” is about a little German girl set during WWII and has received rave reviews from both critics and readers. I know it’ll be a good read, but my gut tells me I’ll bawl through the entire thing. Ever since I started procreating, it doesn’t take much to activate the waterworks. If Walmart commercials can do it, I’m sure “The Book Thief” will have be weeping rivers. Still, today I’m feeling it. Today I’m in the mood.

Unfortunately, B&N is completely sold out. Well, not completely. They do have the hardback, but I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of commitment. So, after verifying its absence with an employee behind a desk–an employee who thinks “The Book Thief” is one of the Percy Jackson books–I sigh, and move on to the Children’s section. I release my daughter to Thomas and Friends, sip my coffee, and browse the rainbow colored spines here.

While it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite section, this just might be mine. Harry Potter, Inkheart, Peter Pan, Percy Jackson. Yeah. This just might be my favorite. Among the spastically bright colors, my eye settles upon a dull beige book with a gray-bricked Scooby Doo kind of mansion drawn on the front. Ordinarily, I’m just like every other consumer. Book covers are important to me. I like the feel of some and hate others. If I can’t appreciate the description on the back, I’m likely to put the book back down. And, if the artwork is unique, I’m prone to check out the first chapter right there in the bookstore. Still, this boring-looking book somehow captures my attention and after putting it through all the pre-purchase tests–Who published it? How’s the summary on the back? Does the author’s voice sound genuine?–I slide the book next to the cup-holder on the stroller and watch my daughter steal trains from a kid twice her size. It’s not “The Book Thief” but I need a book, and “The Mysterious Benedict Society” will have to do.

I’m sure many people gave up halfway through this very ordinary article about a very ordinary trip to the bookstore. But, some of you–yes, you–read all the way to the end. My guess is you like books. You’ll devour just about anything discussing their magic and otherwise addictive properties. I’m the same way. The feel, the smell, the impossible possibilities. Sure, there are things in this life far more important than a stroll through your local B&N, but with a cup of coffee in hand and your children clawing at the shelves, I can’t think of a better way to kill an hour.

Can you?



  • Comment by Jacy — April 14, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

    As you already know I too am a book fiend! Sadly though my recent adventures to B&N have only involved homework with the forementioned neccessary coffee. So as it is your trip has left me jealous. I’d even be willing to take Jaz on if it meant I’d be gauranteed an hour of bookstore bliss!! I think I will be adventuring in my brief time between class and work tonight!

  • Comment by Karen — April 14, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    I am a lover of books who has fallen in love with her Kindle… but I still go to the B&N and check out books to buy… on my Kindle…And may I take this opportunity to say that I would like Starbucks or B&N better if they offered Diet Coke!!!

  • Comment by Lori Stanley Roeleveld — April 15, 2010 @ 8:34 am

    Shannon, your writing is witty and engaging! You made an “ordinary” trip to the bookstore seem like much more! I have lived in and through the written word. When I was a young girl, I even learned the facts of life from a book. I checked a book on childbirth out of the local library and headed home (I was 7 or 8). The kindly librarian immediately called my mother to inform her I was bringing home a book that explained the facts of life. My mom was waiting at the door but, of course, I’d devoured “the good parts” on the walk home and greeted her with “Hey, did you and Dad actually do what it says in this book?” The bookstore is still my favorite treat (although I love Staples, too, all those writing supplies!)

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