How to Efficiently Navigate a Bookstore

Many times I’ve found myself wading the trenches of my local Barnes & Noble without a plan in place, or list of books I want. I find that it can be tedious to navigate through the bookshelves. Here are my strategies on how to effectively navigate a bookshop without feeling overwhelmed. These apply to all different types of bookstores, as I felt equally lost during my first trip to Labyrinth Books on Nassau St. in Princeton, N.J.

Start with the bestseller tables

Typically, the front tables of any bookstore are littered with bestsellers and recent releases. If you’re in a hurry, or have no idea where to look, start here. First, decide between hardcover and softcover. Next, choose between fiction and non-fiction. Realistic fiction can seem believable enough to be real, just as some non-fiction can seem too far-fetched to be true. Gaze around and let your eyes draw you toward books that look colorful or fun. After all, this is the start of your book-buying journey.


If I absolutely have not found any books I want, then I simply end up purchasing a magazine. This is a good section to either start or end during a book-purchasing trip. Find a topic that intrigues you and go from there. You just may end up with something you never thought you’d pick up. I am the least artsy person in my family. My drawing skills have not improved since the sixth grade. However, I was in the mood to paint my room, so I picked up an interior design magazine because I was looking for inspiration and couldn’t decide which color scheme would work best with the cherry wood drawers I currently own. On any other day, I would not have made such a purchase, but I have previously found such publications to be especially helpful.

Television, Music, Movies and Theater

I didn’t know there was an entire shelf dedicated to the arts until about a year ago. Television is my hobby, so I couldn’t wait to purchase books about the magic of theatre. This entire section has books written by musicians, actors, songwriters and producers who are behind and in front of the camera. It can be fun to learn about all the hard work, sweat and dedication it takes to make a show or concert come to life. Some of my favorite titles that have come from this section include “Sounds Like Me,” by Sara Bareilles and “Life Moves Pretty Fast,” by Hadley Freeman.


I’ve recently gotten into the trend of reading poetry that has been popularized all over social media. I read both “I Wrote this For You,” and “I Wrote This for You and Only You,” by Iain S. Thomas, as well as Rupi Kaur’s “Milk and Honey” and “The Sun and Her Flowers.” I have found that poetry is a great way to end a reading slump. When I first graduated from college, I fell into such a slump. I had numerous required readings during my college years, and it was hard to see reading as a leisurely activity. I used poetry books to ease myself back into reading. The words themselves aren’t terribly hard to read or comprehend, but each poem holds a powerful meaning that can be interpreted in different ways. One downside is that poetry books can be expensive, so be cautious.

Biographies and Autobiographies

My favorite genre to read are autobiographies. I enjoy learning about the hardships and obstacles regular people tackle in their quests for fortune and validation. I have more fun reading autobiographies about those whom I barely know. It’s a fun way to get to know a public figure and view the world through their eyes without any biases. As an example, I read Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)” and I did not have any idea who she was. At the time, I genuinely thought this was a self-help book. As I learned more about Kaling, I felt embarrassed for not knowing of her talents sooner. Some autobiographies can also be found in the humor section. “It’s Fine…And Other Lies,” by Whitney Cummings, was purchased from the humor section, even though it’s an autobiographical account of her career and struggles as a comedian.

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