It’s the smell that gets me
first. Freshly printed pages and coffee. I walk into my local chain
bookstore and am torn in two directions.
I line up for coffee first or should I go straight to the fiction
section and simply luxuriate in the thousands and thousands of choices
that surround me?
It’s not even a contest. I skip
around the coffee bar and head straight for the oh-so familiar shelves.
Running my fingers along the spines, I just enjoy this moment of
And now the true fun begins.
Where to start? There are books that I’ve been meaning to buy, but of
course I don’t have a list started and the sensory overload of the
shelves has made me forget all their titles. So I browse.
Now here is the question. How am
I going to find what I’m looking for?
Every bookstore chain seems to
take a different approach to shelving Christian fiction. Some shelve
all religious titles together. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, whatever.
If it has the word Jesus in it, it goes on the religious shelf. I’m not
a big fan of this method as the religious shelf isn’t very big. It
almost guarantees that there will only be a handful of novels, most of
which I’ve probably already read. It’s like a Christian commune of
books. All huddled together, kept away from any secular books that
might sully their shelves, or perhaps herded together and contained,
kept away from the other books so that no one might accidentally pick
up a Christian novel and be offended by the word Jesus.
Goodness, we wouldn’t want that.
Other book stores take a more
machine gun style approach to shelving Christian novels. They go by
genre, mixed in amongst the secular books, sometimes hard to find. It
takes critical thinking skills to uncover these books. Now was that
book I wanted more of a mystery or a romance? Would it be shelved under
literature or science-fiction? How is a person supposed to find a
Christian title mixed in with all of the “heathen” ones?
I suppose that’s what the little
computer kiosk is put there for,
giving a customer precise instructions on how to find the book they’re
looking for. But that doesn’t suit me, I see myself as an explorer,
searching for brand new worlds amongst the bookshelves. And to be
honest, I feel a little spark of joy every time I find a fabulous
Christian title sitting next to some tired old Zombie Erotica novel,
because it makes me wonder if, just by chance, some other explorer of
the shelves stumbled to the exact same place I’m standing.
who wouldn’t in a million years look at fiction on the religious shelf,
they just might just pick up that amazing novel shelved next to the
Zombie Erotica and read the back cover. And maybe that little ray of
light, shelved amongst so much darkness, will reach out to them. Can
you imagine it?
And that’s why I’m willing to
search. Why I love that my local bookstore scatters Christian fiction
throughout the fiction section.
How many people are wandering
those aisles, looking for something, anything to occupy their mind for
a few hours? Can you imagine them picking up a book that ends with
hope? That struggles with the world the way it really is, but that
offers more than despair in its pages?
I can. And I do. Every time I
walk through a bookstore.
So I say let the Christian
novels mingle with their “heathen” cousins. Release them from the
shackles of the religious shelf. Set them free and stop the
segregation. Sure they may be harder to find, but think of it as a
treasure hunt. And if all else fails check the computer.