“I like people to think of me as a voracious reader,” said twenty-six-year-old financial adviser Jesse Villanova as he walked into local retailer Books & Books to peruse its shelves for books he has no intention of reading. “I try to pick up a few new books every couple weeks,” said the University of Florida graduate as he entered the store and greeted its staff with familiarity.
“Good afternoon, Jesse! Did you finish A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius?” asked the store’s owner Mitchell Kaplan who recommended the book to Mr. Villanova on his last visit. “I thought it certainly had its merits, but to be honest I found Eggers relied too heavily on banal literary tricks like breaking the fourth wall, and spent way too much time exploring the so-called exhibitionist nature of modern society,” responded Jesse in a rehearsed answer he cribbed from a New York Times review that he memorized in case Mr. Kaplan asked his thoughts on the memoir. “Couldn’t have said it better myself,” smiled Mr. Kaplan, who had also not read the book and only made the recommendation to make room for the 600-copies of “Five-Feet Apart” that he had ordered.
As Mr. Villanova walked through the store, he stopped by the non-fiction section to pick up a thick biography about Alexander Hamilton that he was excited to add to his collection and tell people he loved just as soon as he reads through Alexander Hamilton’s Wikipedia page. “You know, this is the biography that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write his musical, which is just fantastic, by the way,” said Mr. Villanova, who had not actually seen Hamilton live, but who had watched a grainy balcony-level bootleg of the Los Angeles touring company’s production of the show.
As he browsed the store’s aisles, Mr. Villanova picked up a French copy of Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus, a fourteen-hundred-page treatise on mathematics by physicist Sir. Roger Penrose, and a second copy of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest that he plans to keep in the backseat of his car.
“I really think you can tell a lot about a person by the books on their shelves,” explained Mr. Villanova, who, with the exception of a short book of Etgar Keret stories he read during college because he couldn’t find a decent summary online and wanted to impress a girl, had not completed an entire book since furiously reading through the seventh Harry Potter story in high school. “I would never sleep with someone who didn’t have books in her room,” added Mr. Villanova, who definitely would.
After paying for his selections, Mr. Villanova bid the store’s friendly staff adieu and took a seat at a nearby café where he strategically placed his new copy of Infinite Jest on his table in full view before scrolling through his Instagram feed for 45 minutes.
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