What do you buy a book-lover for their birthday? Not a book

Bibliophile Muiris Houston’s present was a personal consultation in a bookshop

 Dr Muiris Houston: I  liked his “bookside “ consultation skills. There was no monologue of his interests, or dogged persistence with books I clearly had no interest in.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Dr Muiris Houston: I liked his “bookside “ consultation skills. There was no monologue of his interests, or dogged persistence with books I clearly had no interest in. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

What do you buy a bibliophile for their birthday? Why, books of course.

For my recent birthday (no dates, no pack drill), I too got some books, but with a unique twist. I was handed a rather plush box with Dubray stencilled on the outside. It contained a nice Moleskine notebook, and an intriguing message. Would I like to make an appointment for an hour-long book consultation at a branch of the booksellers? And spend €60 (included in my family’s generous gift) on books afterwards?

The invitation explained that I was to email to arrange a mutually suitable time for my consultation. A quick response asked me to outline in general terms my favourite genres; I threw in some pet book hates for good measure in my reply. And so it was agreed that I would be meeting Brian in Dubray of Grafton Street the following Sunday at 2pm.

Now as you probably know, doctors like me don’t make especially good patients. We’re just not very good at staring down the other end of the consultation barrel. So I was a little nervous as I entered the shop.

Brian brought me to the shop’s pleasant cafe on the top floor. A pot of Earl Grey helped smooth the early minutes of the consultation. We had a chat to further outline my reading preferences before he produced an impressive pile of about 16 books that he had picked out earlier. He then invited me to categorise them one by one: already read, of no interest, a maybe and definitely interested.

This produced two piles: two books in the definite section and three tomes in maybe. At this point Brian headed off to gather some more possibles, which generated more discussion. I consider myself pretty “well up” on crime novels set in the period around the second World War, so I was impressed when he came up with some authors I hadn’t previously known about.

I also liked his “bookside “ consultation skills. There was no monologue of his interests, or dogged persistence with books I clearly had no interest in. In fact I was surprised when I saw the hour was up, and while there was no question of the consultation being abruptly terminated, Brian reminded me that I still had to settle on whichbooks I would purchase.

After some reflection I approached the till with my selection, which in fact exceeded the allocated €60. I was pleasantly reminded that I was under no obligation to exceed the gift amount and so I jettisoned one of the six books I had picked. My bundle of reading joy was then wrapped in a complimentary tote bag and off I went to meld into the Grafton Street crowds.

This was a most pleasant experience which would make an ideal gift for the book lover in your life. Their interests will be matched to those of a particular staff member.

The following morning I still had a feel-good buzz from my literary consultation.

And, as an aside, it left me wondering how much more satisfied people would be if the health service facilitated hour-long consultations between doctors and patients.

A Dubray book consultation costs €80 to include €60 of books. dubraybooks.ie

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