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Rachael Berkey Headshot

Unquantifiable

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There are few things I love more than a really engrossing story. I don't mean something that I feel I "should" be reading or that I feel a sense of obligation to finish.

I mean the kind of story that I cannot put down.

They don't come along that often. They frequently aren't bestsellers (though sometimes they are). A lot of the time, I bring them up in conversation and people don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

There are the few exceptions: Harry Potter, the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Ender's Game. Okay, that last one is kind of nerd-specific but the people who do know it tend to be as rabid of fans as I am.

For the most part though, they are books that are well-written but have never gotten the benefit of the bestselling-list doubt. They languish on bookshelves between brighter covers just waiting to be chosen by someone like me who spends their time perusing bookstores looking for something that will jump out and catch my interest.

A really good bookstore knows this, right? I'm convinced they do because I find some of my favorite books in moments like these. I wander aimlessly through shelves crowded with forgotten titles and cover art that missed the digital revolution, and I grab a spine here and there to peruse the synopsis or read the first few pages.

When I was a teenager and did this, my father frequently had to come and find me in the bowels of Borders. I was usually there, propped against a bookshelf with a small pile of paperbacks around me. He didn't mind letting me roam free while he went for coffee or to find a book of his own. The kids and teen sections were conveniently located right near the service desk, and we were there frequently enough that the staff knew me by name and could usually point him in my direction when he came to find me at the end of the evening.

Then I would practice my debate skills as I tried to convince him that I really did need all the books I had picked out and not just one. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn't. Regardless, what I chose was rarely something he had heard of before.

I read my fair share of classics but the books I got completely obsessed with -- the books that I packed into duffel bags and carted with me on family trips much to his dismay -- were often fantasy and science fiction novels with a dramatic heroine and life or death situations. I burned through multiple copies and had to replace them when covers fell off.

Now that I'm older, and books are often shinier and more electronic, I still find myself haunting bookstores, looking for that indefinable quality of a world that I cannot pull myself from without reading every published word. I'm still trying to figure out how electronic bookstores are going to replace this past time. I don't know that they can.