Column: Bookstores have offerings for everyone especially dummies

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

&uot;The printing press is either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse of modern times, one sometimes forgets which.&uot;

&045; J.M. Barrie (author of &uot;Peter Pan&uot;), &uot;Sentimental Tommy&uot;

Several columns ago, I mentioned that a considerable portion of my income goes to the purchase of books. Almost every weekend I somehow end up at a Barnes and Noble store. Though I enjoy accumulating new books almost as much as I enjoy reading them, I don’t always leave the store with less money and more books. Sometimes I simply marvel at some of the titles available.

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Have you ever noticed all of the &uot;Chicken Soup for the Soul&uot; books that are out there? They have Chicken Soup for the Souls of parents, couples, teens, pet lovers, golfers, writers, country music enthusiasts, Christians and Jewish people, just to name a few. It seems like they have come out with a book for just about every target market out there. Some target markets even get additional helpings.

One that I have never seen, though, is &uot;Chicken Soup for the Vegetarian Soul.&uot; However, since vegetarians would never eat chicken soup, I guess that would be oxymoronic, wouldn’t it? Hey, wait! They could call it &uot;Tomato Soup for the Soul.&uot; No, somehow that just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. It sounds too much like a cheap imitation.

Incidentally, I once asked for this book at a B. Dalton store. The bookseller there looked it up on the computer and regretfully informed me that the book was neither on the list of those they could order nor on the list of upcoming releases. I tried to explain that I had been joking, you know, with the whole vegetarian/chicken soup thing, but found that having to explain the joke kind of robbed it of its humor.

Another line that seems to have saturated the market is the &uot;For Dummies&uot; series of books. The series originally focused primarily on computer programs and has expanded to include topics for which I was never aware of the need for a manual. &uot;Beer for Dummies&uot; is one such topic. I guess that book is aimed at those who seek a Ph.D. in Pabst.

Closely related to the Dummies line is its competitor, &uot;The Complete Idiot’s Guide,&uot; also written for nearly every topic conceivable. If this trend continues, perhaps the shelves will be filled with more abusive titles like &uot;Tic-Tac-Toe for Total Morons,&uot; &uot;Microwave Cooking, the Lame-Brain Way,&uot; &uot;Instructions for Imbeciles: How to Make Ice Cubes&uot; and &uot;Now Even a Half-Witted Dunce Like You Can Understand How to Change a Light Bulb.&uot;

I would like to see them publish &uot;Self Respect for Dummies&uot; and &uot;The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Self Esteem.&uot; Buying either of these books would be, I imagine, the equivalent of taking cooking lessons from a guy named Smokey.

On a final note, something else you’ll frequently find in bookstores is audio books &045; books available on cassette or CD for those who might otherwise attempt to read while driving a car. Books have to be well written to hold the reader’s attention, and audio books are no different. For example, I once saw the King James Bible on cassette, read by actor James Earl Jones. You know, the guy who did the voice-over for Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies? Given the seriousness of the subject matter, he was an excellent choice. His voice is most impressive. There are, though, some actors who aren’t quite reader material. Imagine listening to Gilbert Gottfried read J.D. Salinger’s &uot;The Catcher in the Rye.&uot; Yeesh.

I have a hard time listening to these, anyway. I listen to music in the car. And as far as at home, I never know what to do with my hands, kind of like when I gave up smoking. I’m never quite sure just what I’m supposed to look at, either. The stereo? The box for the audio book? I don’t know. I suppose audio books have their place, but for me, listening to them seems kind of like buying a CD and only reading the lyrics. No thank you. I think I’ll stick to reading my books and listening to my music.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Mondays.