I picked up the book. Weighted it in my palm, like a cantaloupe. Flipped open, checking the paper’s shine against the store’s harsh fluorescent lights. Glancing at the page, I noted the size of the type, color saturation of the illustrations, and ratio of animals to humans on the page. In under three minutes I’d evaluated all of the children’s books on the shelf, and selected the best one. It was brightly colored, with thick pages – difficult for those still developing their fine-motor skills to rip – and clear print. Baby G had a present.
And I had turned into my grandfather.
Zaydie used to buy me books. Sometimes it was once a month, sometimes five a week. I never asked where they came from or how he picked them. He gave me books, I read them. It worked well.
A few years into the book buying, Bubby picked up the book I was reading. Interested in the choice of a Sherlock Holmes-inspired mystery for a 9 year old, she asked Zaydie why he’d picked it. He shrugged. She asked again. He told her it was the print.
Zaydie, it turns out, would check out the book section every time he went to Goodwill. He’d pick up any book in the children’s section that had an intact cover, and open it to the middle. He had two criteria: paper quality and print. If the quality wasn’t too bad and the ink hadn’t run, he bought it. Bubby was aghast that he’d been passing off books without checking the content. My dad laughed. Zaydie continued to buy me books without reading them first. And now, it seems, I do the same.
Not to worry – Baby G loved her book; her parents thought I made an excellent educational choice of reading material. Little did they know that was all about the paper quality – which was fine enough that Zaydie would have bought a copy too.