Columnist Gord Turner can’t help glancing at other people’s bookshelves and books — sometimes while they’re still reading them. Wikipedia photo

GORD TURNER: Accidental treasure hunt for books pays rewards

You never know what treasures you might discover on a book shelf

Being a book lover often makes life difficult when you visit others or when you’re traveling. You can’t help but wander over to your friend’s book corner and begin examining his or her books. You’re sensing what your friend is reading, and yet you’re looking for something you might be interested in reading yourself.

That’s also true when you visit coffee shops or offices which feature shelves of exchange books. You think: maybe there’s a book there I’ve overlooked or might enjoy.

On a recent trip to the Okanagan, we stopped at the Copper Eagle coffee shop in Greenwood where I found an open cupboard with a few books. In plain sight was a hardcover novel by an important novelist, Dennis Lehane, who wrote Shutter Island and Mystic River. I put a few coins in a donation jar and absconded with the book Live at Night.

Then, we moved onward and visited our friends in Peachland. While having a look at their bookshelves, I listened to Jim telling us about a trip they’re taking to southwest France and the city of Cahors. That small city appears in several books by Peter May, a Scottish writer who lives in France, and so our friends decided to visit there.

Upon arrival home, I located the six Peter May Enzo mystery novels, and both my wife and I have read every one of them. Now we want to visit southwest France and explore the small villages ourselves.

Recently, we were at the Trail Aquatic Centre where we took our grandchildren swimming. We were sitting reading while occasionally watching the grandkids cavorting in the water. At one point, a young woman sat down at our table, propped open a novel, and began to read.

I was itching to find out what the book was. Surreptitiously, I edged around the table and managed to look at the novel’s cover. It was by someone named Heather Morris, and I could only view part of the title. Upon returning home, I looked up this author on the Internet and discovered her book’s title was The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Our library has two copies, so I raced to the library and signed out the large print version. A brief novel, it deals with a love story in extermination prisons in wartime Poland. It depicts brilliantly the horrors of these World War II prison camps and the ability of the lovers to survive.

A week ago, I was on my way to Brent Kennedy school to pick up my other grandchildren. Needing a coffee and knowing that Thrums Market has excellent Oso Negro coffee, I stopped there — and found another shelf of exchange books. “Take a book and leave a book,” the sign said.

While leafing through the books, I discovered an intriguing book title based on Yeats’ poem The Second Coming. The title was The Blood-Dimmed Tide by a South African mystery novelist named Rennie Airth. I had no novel to exchange, so I took this novel with the idea of returning it later. And I read and read and read that novel — well into the night.

More recently yet, I was in the Trail Coffee and Tea Company to pick up Winefest tickets when I discovered another “exchange” set of books. A day before that I’d come upon a writer, Nicholas Petrie, whom the reviewer claimed wrote novels similar to those of author Lee Child, Jack Reacher’s creator. There on the shelf was a paperback of Petrie’s The Drifter. I took it and read it in one afternoon.

Most of the books I find in out-of-the-way spots are by authors I’ve never read or know nothing about, and I enjoy every moment of this accidental treasure hunt.

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