Add Some Serendipity to Your Reading

Serendipity: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for

-Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online

"I love in rainbow." Courtesy of Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt (Purple Sherbet Photography)
“I love in rainbow.” Courtesy of Flickr user D. Sharon Pruitt (Purple Sherbet Photography)

The summer before I started middle school, my mom went back to work full time.  This meant that I needed looking after during the day. She worked something out with another local mom who had daughters about my age, and I spent many a long afternoon sitting on their couch, marveling over the fact that they didn’t have cable, and in some small way cultivating the reading habit that has always stayed with me. One of my summer playmates happened to be reading a book that I had never heard of at the time, but maybe you have, just this awesome little novel called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

This is my story that captures the magic (pun intended) of finding a great book out of pure luck and random circumstances, but I’m sure all avid readers have one that is just as meaningful.  Technically there is no way to add serendipity to your reading as it is, by nature, accidental, but here are some things you can do to invite those lucky bookish moments into your life.

In Your Library

Being a librarian, I’m rather biased in favor of libraries, but truly they are one of the best low maintenance ways to find new and interesting books.  After all, you don’t have to pay for them.  Library professionals are typically quite good at creating book displays, and are always looking to vary up their displays by theme.  Browsing the displays is a great way to discover a book you may not have otherwise heard of. Library book sales are also great, usually very cheap, routes of discovery.  If you’ve got a few hours, wander a library book sale and see what catches your eye, but be careful, you may take home a few tons of books.  And, of course, get to know your librarian! I can’t tell you how many times I have been reading a book and thought, “I know that (insert name here) would love this!” If a librarian gets to know what you like, they might end up serving as your own personal book scout and give you random, surprising recommendations. 

On the Internet

In terms of discovering books, everybody think of Goodreads, and don’t get me wrong, I love Goodreads, but let’s think outside the box a bit. If you are on Twitter or Instagram, hashtags can be a great way to browse new to you books.  #CurrentlyReading and #Bookstagram are two of the most popular, but it’s just the beginning. The great thing about bookish hashtags is they often lead you not only to great books but to people with similar tastes. When you find someone who often tweets about your kinds of books, you can follow them and who knows which of their tweets might scroll across your feed at just the right moment with just the right book. Finally, if you are like me, Netflix knows you are a reader.  Every time I go looking for a new TV show, Netflix shows me a whole list of “Movies Based on Books,” which usually makes me want to seek out the book before I watch the movie.

photo by flickr user Patrick Gage Kelley
photo by flickr user Patrick Gage Kelley

In Your Everyday Life

Notice your friends’ and family members bookshelves, and browse them. Ask if they are open to lending. Even if you have browsed their books a dozen times you never know what title will speak to you in any particular moment. Don’t be afraid to “crossover” or “crossunder”- this means reading books that you may think are too old or too young for you.  Your younger sister might be in elementary school but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have good reading taste.  Your grandfather might not have bought a new book since you were born, but when he talks about his favorite, listen.

When all else fails trust your gut.  So you have ten fantasy books checked out for the library that you “need to finish” but you just saw The Imitation Game and you are dying to read some historical fiction? So go find some! Let yourself be led serendipitously towards your next great read!

-Emily Childress-Campbell, Currently reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng