The question is “What does this mean?” and I don’t quite know the answer. (Though, unlike the chap in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I am willing to consider the possibility that it means nothing at all.)
But what does it mean when, in a one-week period, I get three or more copies of an unusual book.
Some books, of course–The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood leaps to mind–do come in on a fairly regular basis, though three copies a week is a stretch even there. Is it coincidence, a case of everybody getting tired of the book at once, or just evidence that the whole world is trying to drive Uncle Blogsy right up the loading dock wall? Or what?
We have not, these last twenty years, been exactly short of James Redfield’s 1993 bestseller, The Celestine Prophecy. It’s a book which has its fanbase, leading to three sequels, an album, and a movie. It is also a book with a double identity, since it can be placed, depending on how you read it, either in Science Fiction or in How To (Head). (It is a novel dealing with a fictional ancient manuscript of hints on self-help. One criticism voiced by critics was that Redfield was way more interested in the self-help hints than in the story.)
Nothing in that paragraph explains why I found not three, not four, but five copies of it in the assortment of shopping bags from donors. If I had found all five in one bag, I would have known what happened: somebody started with a hundred copies, handing one out to every new employee, or every new client, and decided, after a decade or so, to switch to a newer title. But no: five different people cleaned their shelves during our blizzard and decided simultaneously that The Celestine Prophecy could be passed along to another reader.
I could also find a little sense in the world if these five people had been responsible for the other book that has been rushing in this week, since it is also a self-help book, and also the first bestseller for its author, Rohan Candappa. This is a small square red volume called The Little Book of Stress. There have been many books about stress, but this one is different. It offers suggestions for people who do not have enough stress in their lives on how to go out and find more.
All four copies of this book, which also came in from different donors, are in excellent condition: one would almost, if one didn’t mind offending the author, say “unread condition”. (Although one donor also gave us his third book, The Little Book of Wrong Shui, so that must have been a fan. Maybe they just read the book very delicately.)
One part of me wishes I could have been there when these people were making their donation decisions. I could have arranged a swap. “Okay, you have enough stress in your life and want to get rid of that little red book? I know someone with a copy of The Celestine Prophecy to calm you down.” “Too much serenity from reading Mr. Redfield? Somebody down the street has a little book that can help you out.”
Another question, of course, is what kind of book fair we’d have if everybody was normal. Won’t happen of course: only four copies of Stress to five copies of Celestine. Somebody would get all stressed out about it.