Joshua Tehee

Go on a Blind Date with a Book at Bebe O’s in the Tower District

Books are wrapped and ready for Tower Free Library’s Blind Date with a Book event Sunday, Oct. 11.
Books are wrapped and ready for Tower Free Library’s Blind Date with a Book event Sunday, Oct. 11. Special to The Bee

There is a certain thrill in going on a blind date with a book – picking one book out of a pile, sans visual clues.

“I like the idea of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ ” says Lisa Fialho, a first-rate book lover and organizer of the Tower Free Library’s Blind Date With a Book event Sunday, Oct. 11, at Bebe O’s (1130 N. Wishon Ave.).

The “date” works like this: Organizers offer a collection of used books, all covered in the same plain brown wrapping paper and tagged with minimal information. There’s no author or title, just a few quick keywords and the genre, maybe.

Think of it as a dating profile: “Classic. Fictional novella. California. Great Depression. Friendship.”

That’s likely a description for John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” but guessing at the title is sort of cheating. So is opening the book before you get home.

Part of the fun is taking a chance on a book you might pass on otherwise, Fialho says.

This is a blind date, after all.

And it is a cheap one. Entrance is $2-$5 depending on how many books you’re looking to take home. Five dollars will get you three books; $3 for two books and $2 for one. Children’s books are free to read/take, Fialho says.

Conceivably, this could be a good way to keep the kids busy while you browse.

Once you’ve read the book, you can rate it, if you like. There are bookmarks included for just that reason. And the rate card is good for a dollar off entrance to the next Blind Date With a Book event.

Of course, “you don’t have to bring the books back,” Fialho says.

This idea is not new.

Fialho first read about a similar event in Parade Magazine years ago, and if Pinterest is any indication, these kind of blind-date book buys are fairly popular with library friends groups and retail bookstores.

For the Fresno event, as of last count, there were more than 100 books wrapped and ready for Sunday’s event. There’s a good choice of mystery and thrillers, along with classics such as Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” – and possibly that copy of “Of Mice and Men.” The event is using the overstock of donations from the Tower Free Library. They pulled out the glut of Danielle Steel and romance novels, Fialho says.

If all goes well, the blind dates will continue on a monthly basis, Fialho says. Already, there are events planned for November (at Gazebo Gardens), December (at Dusty Buns Bistro) and January (at Valley Arts and Science Academy). All proceeds from the events will go toward reading and literacy programs, she says.

Of course, the money isn’t the point.

It’s about creating access to books.

Fialho grew up in the Tower District when there was a county library in the neighborhood. She lived just across the street. Her mother kept her in books, too. Those Scholastic order forms that came home from school? She never had a limit. When she married, her husband was a reader. Her mother in-law ran the Valley Book Center on Olive Avenue before it closed several years ago.

The event operates in the same spirit as the Tower Free Library, which started in March of last year as a way to collect and distribute donated books – who doesn’t have a dozen or so unused books lying around? The library operates two “little free libraries” set up outside Chase Flower Shop on Van Ness Avenue and Free Bird Company on Olive Avenue. The books are offered, for free, on a take-one-leave-one basis.

“It was my love of reading,” Fialho says, “my love of books that I wanted to share.”

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

Blind Date With a Book

  • 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 11
  • Bebe O’s parking lot, 1130 N. Wishon Ave.
  • Entrance: $2 for one book, $3 for two books, $5 for three books