That Time I Rearranged An Airport Bookstore (I’m a Rebel, see)

I traveled last week to Story Nashville, a conference hosted by Crosspoint Church in Nashville, Tennessee. I enjoy traveling more than most, in no small part because of the solitary nature of any given excursion. To those who know me, this should come as no surprise—I am an extreme introvert by nature, though a well-practiced extrovert. It’s the introvert that needs the travel, the blending into the airport crowd, the whir of the airplane engine drowning out most conversations, the headphones drowning the rest.

More than the solitude, though—and brace yourself for this bold statement—I adore an airport bookstore. I am a book junkie, and if I could mainline words, I’d probably ask you to pass the elastic band and syringe; I’d freebase them from a spoon. (Was that a touch crass? I suppose sometimes the truth is.) So last week, on the way to share stories at Story, I made a beeline to Potomac Books and began perusing the shelves. (The name of the bookstore has been changed to protect the innocent–namely, me.)

I picked new releases from the shelves, read bits and pieces. I snatched a copy of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See–a book that nearly stole my will to write–and fawned over a few of my favorite pages. I flipped through the words and photographs of a World War II history book, devoured the captions under the photos of Rommel churning up dust in North Africa. Mindy Kaling’s new book was on the shelves, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), and I read a few pages, laughed till I choked on my Jamba Juice. Books, books, everywhere. It was Valhalla, I say.

I moved to the Religion and Spirituality section of the Potomac and scanned the titles. Here, my bookish aura greened, bile rising, as I noted the smiling, Photoshopped heads floating against muted backdrops, the titles promising me my best life now or some version of it. They were there with their pearl white teeth offering reward from work or faith, depending upon the flavor of the author. They were the salesmen of promise. What was the promise? Happiness. Wealth. Status. Perhaps a good sex life. Hopefully a good sex life. (Who wouldn’t buy a book promising a good sex life?)

Joel Osteen was smiling next to Dave, who was smiling next to T.D., who was smiling next to Ben, who was smiling next to some buxom woman in a deep-V blouse promising a good sex life. (Again I ask: who wouldn’t buy a self-help book promising a good sex life?) The people–they’re all smiling on their book covers these days. Frowns and ash don’t move print, I suppose.

And this is where the story shifts, and why the bookstore name must be changed for my protection. There, among those very pretty floating heads all awash in smiles was a little book by Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday:Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. In contrast to its companions, it was simple. It was the unassuming fish swimming in the pond of assuming largemouths. I picked it up, flipped the pages and read as she wrote of living a deeply connected life in the hustle and flow of the everyday. I flipped, flipped, flipped, and was moved by the honesty of Freeman’s work. It was, at it’s root, true.

And this is the part of the story wherein I might have crossed the line. There was her book, a shining pearl among the fool’s gold (dangit if they’re not profiting off so much pyrite these days) and the spirit (mine or the spirit of God, who can know) said Freeman needed more shelf space. I didn’t cover Ben, or Dave, or T.D., or the Buxom woman wearing the deep-V (doesn’t everyone need a book promising a good sex life?). In a moment of weakness, though, I grabbed a few copies of Simply Tuesday, and faced them out, covering Mr. Osteen’s smiling face. I’m not sure the legality of the move, though I’m quite sure it was untoward and uncivil. I didn’t raise the ire of the T.S.A., little act of resistance that it was. I’m also quite positive that the shelving snafu was quickly noted by the pimple-faced teen at gum counter, and the issue was rectified once I turned my back on the shelf. Even still, the act felt good.

Sometimes it feels good to be a rebel.

I walked from the Potomac to my gate, whispered a quick Lord Have Mercy over the folks who entered the Potomac. And by Lord Have Mercy, I meant this: “Lord, let a few more copies of Simply Tuesday find their way into the hands of all these fast paced travelers.”

Amen.

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  • Tina Diss

    Confession time, I always, if I can, bury the Osteen, false/pseudo Gospel stuff. Bury it, turn it with the back facing forwards…heck I’d chuck it if I could. By the way, I’m almost done with Emily’s “Simply Tuesday”. You’re right, it’s so good, true, and Christ honoring. Keep callin’ ’em as you see ’em brother Seth!

    • sethhaines

      I’m glad to see I’m in good company.

  • emily p freeman

    I once joked with Amber about how she could write about doorknobs and it would be beautiful. Guess what she did the very next week?

    So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you made a whole post of this moment at the airport bookstore (where I still can’t believe my book showed up) – and not only are you funny but also made me cry so there’s that.

    I love this so much. Obviously. And thank you. And amen.

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Ok, so Seth, I said on your FB page, I’d read this later. I couldn’t resist, however, so here I am, turning my face from *my* bookshelves to the “Potomac’s” and your blog. I totally get what you are saying. I am not fond of travel (until I arrive), but the one thing I love is lounging (and reading!) in airports. Actually I used to work in one, so I’m at home. In fact, I will actually schedule layovers of up to eight hours, because I love the anonymity and lounge-ability of airports. Not a problem. I come well-stocked with books of my own or buy some there. And I am a book-turning rebel as well. Honestly, I don’t think there is a law against it, but likely there *should* be a law against publishing book banality. I’m always amazed that books that are not really books get published. I digress. I must tell you that I stand guilty of seeing Emily’s new book, face outward-turned in a Christian bookstore, and I didn’t crack the spine, scan the words, make the purchase. Somehow it didn’t appeal. But after your lovely, trusted review, I will rethink that and likely purchase a copy whether or not I see its cover facing out. It sounds as if her words, themselves, will cause me first to turn inward, and then to turn outward by making a change. I think maybe that kind of change is *simply* needed by moi. Thanks for this Tuesday excursion on a Wednesday afternoon. Sounds as if her wisdom will apply any day of the week. Ok, now see what you have gone and done: You’ve made me late for my doc appointment! 🙂
    Blessings,
    Lynn

    • sethhaines

      “*should* be a law against publishing book banality.” This is the truest sentence I’ve read in the last 24 hours.

      Grab a copy of Em’s book if you haven’t already. You’ll be glad.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Ok. You’ve sold me. Thanks for the recommendation . . . taking leads from trusted authors and friends is one way to guard against the dreaded BB! tx, Seth.

  • All the Light we Cannot See and it’s kind companion (to use emily freeman’s phrase) The Book Thief almost stole my will to write as well. wanting, if i were to offer the world anything, to offer it stories like those. but i’ve never written fiction, and so i nearly gave it all up, but for the whisper that maybe my words could have value still-even if small (another concept of emily freeman-that girl’s art seems to slip into my soul in just the right sort of ways.) i’m learning slowly that my deep appreciation of great art/writing need not stifle the art/writing in me, and working through to belief that as i find myself moved and changed by the great stories, my writing will improve because of what my heart has experienced in them.

    • sethhaines

      THE BOOK THIEF. True story: I have a first American Edition that I literally (actually, figuratively) stole from the internet and I can’t bring myself to crack the spine because it’s a FIRST EDITION. So… It hasn’t stolen my will just yet. But it nearly will, I know.

      I couldn’t agree more about deep appreciation for good writing. It draws into better language, better usage, better literary devices. Good spiritual writing (a.k.a. Freeman’s) likewise draws us into a deeper appreciation of the ways of the Spirit. She’s a good one. Isn’t she?

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  • Flower Patch Farmgirl

    This is just the best book “review” post I’ve ever seen. Brilliant! Brilliant!
    And so true. Amber and Emily’s books were on my verboten list until I wrapped a project because they’re two of the truest, loveliest writers I know, no low-V necessary. They were my rewards, the two voices i wanted in my head when the smoke cleared. Just wrapped Wild and beginning Tuesday and I want everyone I know to read both.
    Cheering on your airport capers!

    • sethhaines

      Thanks so much! (And you’d be making Amber (who adores you terribly much) blush right now (did you see all those parens? Could you follow?)).

      Am and Em are two of the authentic ones. If writing were wrestling, they’d need to form a tag team.