A Novel Date Idea

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Illustration by Grace Ackles

When a book is wrapped in paper, you don’t get a chance to judge it by its cover. Several bookshops are offering sales for “Blind Date with a Book,” for those who choose to spend Valentine’s Day with their one true love — a good book.

“Blind Date with a Book” doesn’t celebrate a romantic love, but a love for reading. The relatively new trend has bookstores selling books, wrapped in paper to hide the titles and authors — leaving customers with no way of knowing what they are purchasing.

Bookshop Santa Cruz fiction manager Rico Lange said the appeal behind going on a “blind date with a book” is to expose oneself to a new and different reading experience.

“It’s very popular for sure,” Lange said. “It’s a lot of fun for people. It’s a way to take a chance and find a book or an author you wouldn’t come across on your own.”

Lange said “blind date with a book” is available for about three weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. Bookshop Santa Cruz employs multiple section managers for the shop’s different sections and genres — with each section generating a list of recommended titles for the promotion. From there, the shop’s marketing team narrows these lists down to about a dozen titles that make the final cut for “blind dates.”

At UC Santa Cruz, literary magazine Red Wheelbarrow also hosts “Blind Date with a Book” multiple times throughout the year. At its Feb. 13 event, which will be hosted outside of the Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall, the organization will sell used wrapped books ranging from $1 to $6. All proceeds from the event will go toward publishing the organization’s yearly anthology.

The promotion also extends beyond Santa Cruz and reaches all the way to Mountain View, where Book Buyers — a bookstore specializing in buying and selling used books — hosts a similar event.

Amy Helmig, a buyer for Book Buyers and the employee who organizes “Blind Date with a Book,” said the promotion’s popularity spreads far beyond the Valentine’s Day season.

“People asked for it throughout the year and I felt bad that we didn’t have it available all year,” Helmig said.

Since Book Buyers specializes in the buying and selling of used books, Helmig said its method of choosing “blind date” books is somewhat different from the strategy Bookshop Santa Cruz uses.

“We choose best-sellers or award-winning books, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners, fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays,” Helmig said. “People may not be drawn to those sections naturally, but when they hear a blurb about it, they might be more interested and more willing to pick it up.”