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The Mystery Book Sale

One day, I was heading to one of my favorite used bookstores. I saw a sign out front: “Mystery book sale!”

I thought this was a really cool idea. Buy a book with no knowledge of what it is! I assumed the books were curated in some way, chosen because of their near-universal appeal or timelessness.

I began to wonder how it worked. Did you tell the shopkeep what genres you were interested in? Or maybe even name a few of your favorite books so they can narrow down what you might enjoy? What happens if you already own the book you get?

My head was abuzz with possibilities. I went up to the counter and said “I have to ask you about your mystery book sale!”

“Oh,” came the reply, “all our mystery books are on those shelves over there.”

I looked, and it took a few seconds for the penny to drop. Then I realized: this wasn’t a sale of unknown (i.e. mysterious) books, this was a sale of books in the mystery genre.

I tried to explain my befuddlement to the storekeeper, and he gave me a polite laugh that seemed to communicate “I’m sorry you have just discovered that you are an idiot.”

I still think about the mystery book sale sometimes and wonder if it would work at all.

I didn’t buy any mystery books. Their selection was not very good.

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