On Browsing

Jason Guriel's On Browsing invites readers to consider the dying art (or is it already dead?) of perusing a bookshelf or record bin, of wandering and meandering toward a possibly ambiguous purpose, of interacting with physical media in a physical world. In keeping with the goal of the publisher's Field Notes series, of which this is a part, this book is slim but offers considerable insights as it moves across such varied spaces as libraries, malls and any store where one might obtain books, music or movies. Guriel (Forgotten Work) presents, in part, a memoir: many of the browsing experiences he chronicles focus on the specific haunts he frequented in his native Toronto. But the way browsing allows you to "pause, eye a spine, and tip some strange compact sliver of the world towards you" will register as a deeply familiar act, and Guriel's collection of eight essays may remind readers of their pleasure in this moment of discovery.

There are hints of the curmudgeon here, as Guriel rails against the "Age of Scrolling" and the ways "we've given up the journey for the destination." Guriel is not arguing against technology, however; instead, he invites readers to join him in considering the good that might be gained from embracing the physical act of browsing and all that might be lost without it. Despite some minor repetition, On Browsing is perfect for readers and collectors alike, for anyone who has ever thrilled at stumbling across a coveted item, without even looking for it. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Powered by: Xtenit