Have you ever wanted to be a member of a book club, but without the annoying conversation? Or, maybe you've wanted your own personal shopper, who picks out books guaranteed to please and enlighten you? That's the idea behind a new program at Brazos Bookstore geared toward finding the perfect book for individual readers, based on a one-on-one interview with a member of the Brazos Books team. You show up, take the personality test (not unlike a Myers-Briggs quiz) and pay your $25 a month, and every 30 days you'll get a personally chosen tome meant to broaden your literary horizons.
The program is called Inuchan, and it was inspired by a similar Japanese program Brazos Bookstore manager Jeremy Ellis had read about several years before on the Internet. The word means "cute little dog" in Japanese, and at Brazos, Inuchan intends to fetch a book for you every month for the next six months, all for $25 a pop. Each book will be delivered to your home wrapped up like a birthday present, complete with a message from Inuchan him/herself. It's like a spirit animal for your cerebral cortex.
Over the weekend I stopped by Brazos to take the quiz.
When I arrived, Ellis corrected me, somewhat sarcastically. It is less a quiz, he says, and more of an interview. "We will judge you harshly and then talk about you when you leave," he joked.
We sat down in a little reading nook in the main area of the bookstore, facing the awesome Inuchan dog built out of books by Brazos's resident artist Sam Wukusick. Brazos's logo is a dog howling at the moon, so the Inuchan imagery fits perfectly.
The interview is divided into four sections, and the first part is a series of either/ors meant to help the interviewee loosen up. Some examples: "Classic or contemporary? Dogs or cats? Europe or Asia? Sexy or sleazy?" (For the record, my answers were: contemporary, dogs, Europe, sleazy.)
From there the questions become more open-ended. What the interview doesn't ask:" Who is your favorite author?" "What kinds of books do you like to read?" or anything that specific. Ellis said that's intentional.
"It's not really about choosing the book that you're looking for," he said. "It's about choosing the book that you need. We want to lead you into new territory."
Ellis said there are about 60 books on the Inuchan list and no two readers will get the same prescription, as you might call it. He also said the staff is keeping the list of books secret.
"We want there to be a surprise factor. A good bookstore ought to inspire you to find something new."
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And if you get a book and hate it? Inuchan is a learning process. The Brazos team is very much looking forward to feedback.
"This is our first time doing it and we're kind of painting the truck as it's driving down the street," Ellis said. "We like to figure it out as we go along."
Because the program is new, Ellis is limiting sign-ups to 100 people. There are still about 70 slots left. My first book should come by the middle of this month. Once I'm done reading it, I'll report back on my impressions.
Sign up for Inuchan with an interview at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, Houston, TX 77005.