I didn’t realize how much I have in common with Jimmy Swaggart (the disgraced American evangelical preacher) until I got an email from Lucy at BooksPrice a few weeks ago. Some of you might have gotten one too. Check out BooksPrice, she said. It’s a site that lets you search the web for the book you want (all except ebay) and it’ll tell you where you can get it for the best price. And, to thank you for looking at BooksPrice, and maybe writing about it, here’s a book.
Naturally, being an easy sort, I clicked on that link. It’s a nice site, although I think it only gives you price comparisons for U.S. booksellers. (*Nope, I’m wrong there — it does do a UK search!)
The trouble with BooksPrice isn’t the site. It’s the offer to give me a book for looking at it. In some odd way, the offer of the book made my positive reaction to Lucy’s site feel kind of sinful. It’s a silly response, in some ways. I send and receive books all the time (and thank you Anne for Winter’s Tale — I love the edition you sent!) and so Lucy sending me a book isn’t such a big deal.
Anyway, I forgot all about that particular little dilemma as soon as I noticed the page on the site where BooksPrice’s editors recommend a book every week. Now I don’t know about you, but I always look at things like that. I use it to gauge what the recommender’s like. It’s a way to see into their soul. Sort of. (It would be helpful to also know what they put in their cart at the grocery store before forming a definitive opinion of the state of their soul.)
So here’s what I found out when I looked into BooksPrice’s soul… I mean, their weekly recommended book page. There are some good recommendations on it but the last one (Pamuk’s great novel, My Name is Red) was posted in December. It was as though they had at one time seen the light of the good book, and then suddenly stopped bearing witness, maybe lured away by some worldly temptation. Or maybe they were just busy fixing some part of their site that had mysteriously broken. Whatever the reason, it came to me, as though from some divine booksource, that it was my calling to illuminate that little corner of the web, to encourage more people to read good books, books I think are good, I mean.
So I emailed Lucy and told her I’d write some blurbs for her to put on her site if she wanted. I want to bear witness to the world (or at least the people who use BooksPrice) about the illustrated Elements of Style, and Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale, and Sandi Shelton‘s wonderful, wise and very funny book, A Piece of Normal. I’d like to preach the good news of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which sounds like bad news, but at least it’s well written, and like Revelations tells you some stuff you need to know. I want searchers after the truth to pick up that new translation of The Three Musketeers when they’re at BooksPrice looking for a repair manual for their car. I want them all to come to books, to the good news of good books and be changed forever.
Lucy’s no fool — in fact, she’s a lovely woman, very kind, and interesting and generous. Seeing a free, enthusiastic source of content for her site, and most likely unaware of the evangelical nature of my offer, she very nicely said she’d love to have my blurbs. So I’m about to send Lucy five recommendations — enough to last her through to the spring, if she does post them over there once a week. (I am aware that it is really not going to be spring in a lot of places for at least five weeks.)
Lucy also offered to send me a few books I’m interested in reading and maybe posting about over at her site. Just tell her what I’m interested in, and she’ll see what she can do. Thinking this over after my initial shock of delight, I continue to feel uneasy about receiving free books from Lucy. In fact, I feel a little like Jimmy Swaggart, considering whether he’ll use the church’s resources to buy drugs and fast women for himself. He loves the church, and its people, and the word. But he loves the worldly pleasures and wants them for himself. His hand hovers over the collection plate and trembles.
Me? Maybe I’ll let myself fall from grace. Maybe I won’t. I’m here to tell you that I’m sorely, sorely tempted. I want to read that new Jim Harrison book that was on the cover of the New York Times Book Review last week. And I don’t want to wait until it comes to my local bookstore.
Your tempted but not yet fallen sister in the holy word,