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Column: Blind Date with a Book

Archers+Tia+Palermo+Library+bestows+their+own+Blind+Date+with+a+Book+display+to+match+this+months+column+on+the+Valentines-esque+tradition.+Getting+to+go+out+of+your+comfort+zone+to+try+a+new+read+without+pre-existing+knowledge+of+the+book+makes+for+a+wonderful+experience.+
Photo credit: Madeleine Beaubaire
Archer’s Tia Palermo Library bestows their own Blind Date with a Book display to match this month’s column on the Valentine’s-esque tradition. Getting to go out of your comfort zone to try a new read without pre-existing knowledge of the book makes for a wonderful experience.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to overindulge by splurging on what is my all-time favorite book display: Blind Date with a Book.

Blind Date with a Book is an annual Valentine’s Day-inspired book display at many libraries and bookstores to avoid the instinct of judging books’ covers. The books are wrapped so people can purchase them before learning or anticipating their contents. I have participated in this reading challenge for years now, and every year, Barnes and Noble manages to spice up my book choices. Every place does it differently; some simply showcase the book themes, while others put the whole back cover blurb on the wrapping. Regardless, going in without expectations is half the fun.

For the first blind date, I hoped for a lighthearted, fluffy read to match the Valentine’s Day spirit. The subsequent tear stains on my sheets would show that Tamera Ireland Stone’s “Every Last Word” was NOT that. Let the record show that I wholeheartedly enjoyed the stylistic uniqueness of the plot and found myself in a complete daze post-plot-twist reveal. Now, I won’t rephrase the blurb on the back cover so as not to overtly allude to the previously mentioned “plot twist,” but as enjoyable as this book was, it was not the lovestruck, heart-eyes “happily ever after” I intended. Instead, it was an angsty, mind-warping family story.

Date #2 revealed itself to be my second-chance romance, not of the genre, but with the book itself. This one followed more Valentine’s-oriented guidelines. The only light and fluffy book I’ve struggled to put down, Lynn Painter’s “Better than the Movies” was an adorable story. A quick read had me flying through faster than even my own records, and at 3 hours in with 26 pages left, it wasn’t hard to understand how lovable this book was. The protagonist, accurately described by Simon & Schuster as a “perpetual daydreamer,” holds infinite classic tropes with her childhood enemy-turned-fake boyfriend; they’re dating to make an ex jealous while internally battling their developing feelings, AND it’s set just before the prom. A cliche smoothie, yet somehow still sweet and enjoyable, Painter sets romance standards high for readers and writers alike.

For my final date, I wanted to go out of my comfort zone, (as I assume those brave enough to go on blind dates with actual human people do), so my albeit pathetic attempt to do so was forcing myself to read a thriller. This pairing was more of a setup by — and it doesn’t get nerdier than this — my mother, since this is her genre of choice (freak). Three books, a few tears and several nightmares later, I feel my 2024 reads were sufficiently enriched by this activity.

Now, don’t be fooled; blind book dates are not an activity for strictly romance readers. Through this display, I’ve discovered a harboring love of fantasy novels (in moderation). I’ve also never been one to commit to a whole series of novels, but I found myself engrossed in Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows” series and craving more from the story. Last year, I even read nonfiction on a blind date — I’ll admit I picked up the wrong genre — but that’s irrelevant. Despite my disinterest in the nonfiction genre, I found myself … not completely hating it? Believe it or not, I even enjoyed myself.

If you perhaps want to enrich your 2024 reads or maybe explore genres you aren’t typically drawn to, the word on the street is that Archer’s Tia Palermo Library has set up a similar display in the library. Rumor has it some weirdo begged Ms. Hernandez to set one up for Valentine’s Day … I wonder who that could be? Regardless, check out the library display on the banister separating the individual cubbies and the main tables, even if just to admire the decorations. I encourage you to indulge in a Blind Date with a Book — you won’t regret it.

I wanted to highlight this display, as it’s a beloved one, and for good reason. Getting to explore books without preemptive judgment — because let’s be honest, we all judge books by their covers (sometimes rightfully so) — or even reading the back cover of a novel gives more than enough insight into its contents. Hence why going blind enhances the experience and essentially forces you out of your comfort zone. This yearly challenge is a delight and a highly anticipated display at any bookstore or library.

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Madeleine Beaubaire, Columnist

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