The Bookish Version of Say Yes to the Dress

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Katherine Willoughby

Staff Writer

Katherine Willoughby lives is Richmond, Virginia and teaches Junior Kindergarten at the same school where she discovered her love of reading. When she is not in the classroom, Katherine enjoys building wooden train layouts with her three-year-old son, playing board games while drinking IPA’s with her husband, and taking part in pub trivia. Read Across America Day is her favorite holiday!

I have very vanilla guilty habits: large unsweetened iced teas from a local market, pajamas with gnomes on them, and wedding dress reality TV shows. My poor, naive husband thought that after our wedding, I would watch more food shows or reruns of Seinfeld with him. Nope! Still wedding dress shows. Embarrassingly, my brain must let out tulle-encircled endorphins as I watch 23-year-olds spend their parents’ money on dresses that cost more than the down payment on our house. My own wedding dress cost $200 and I bought it from a consignment shop. “You only wear the dress for six hours!” I usually scream at the bride who tries on over 100 mermaid dresses and then can’t decide if she wants a velvet black sash or a pink birdcage veil.

While sipping an iced tea, I thought about a possible spin-off of Say Yes to the Dress. Here is a show I would pitch to TLC and perhaps bring it back to its The Learning Channel roots:

Look: is this your book?

On Say Yes to the Dress, two or three brides try on myriad wedding dresses with the help of a black-clad consultant. Budgets are blown, happy tears are shed, and usually brides walk away as a “Kleinfeld Bride.” On Look: Is This Your Book?, filming takes place at The Strand Bookstore in New York City. Two or three book searchers interact with a staff member (called a booksultant) in order to find the perfect new read.

In the first episode, we meet Jessica, who holds a degree in English but claims that she has no time to read. She is a nursing mother of two who recently returned to work as an insurance adjuster. Jessica meets with her booksultant and says that she is looking for a book about mothers and children, possibly set in the early 1900s, about 200 pages. The booksultant nods energetically and scurries off to find her perfect fit book. First, though, the booksultant looks into the camera and nervously confesses, “I know I can find her a book about a mother and child, but only 200 pages? I just don’t know. If The Strand can’t help her, than who can?” Meanwhile, Jessica peruses the Strand’s selection of tote bags. The tote bag is the bridal  veil of the book world. Every book looks better in a new tote!

The booksultant returns with three books: Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, and Away: A Novel by Amy Bloom.

Jessica immediately dismisses Call the Midwife. She tells the camera, “I am really looking for fiction, not a memoir. I also recently had a baby and my husband is ready for number three. I can’t handle a book with such chapter titles as Eclampsia and A Breech Delivery. At 340 pages, it is way over my page limit.” The booksultant pushes the book by saying that much of the last forty pages are an appendix and a glossary. “Oh, a glossary is a definite deal breaker!” Jessica snidely comments as the booksultant looks slightly miffed.

The Joy Luck Club soon finds its way into the discard pile as well. While a book about mothers and daughters across generations works well for her, Jessica prefers a story without jumps between time periods. At this request, the booksultant looks flummoxed! Jessica did not request a linear narration. The appointment seems doomed!

Jessica reaches for Away and begins reading the blurb on the back of the book. “Oh, it is about a woman who ‘pursues her daughter, an enduring life, and love.’ It is a bit over my page limit at 235 pages, but I think I can stretch the limit. I will take a break from looking at Instagram while I breastfeed my baby,” she gushes. The booksultant looks at Jessica and asks the important question: Look, is this your book? “Yes!” a relieved and delighted Jessica confirms. She leaves The Strand with Away tucked inside her “Well-Read Woman” tote.

Three weeks later, we catch up with Jessica reading on her own patio while the bookish theme song plays. Away was the right choice! She lost some sleep once sucked into the story, but found her love of reading again. She is even considering making time to read White Houses: A Novel. Jessica will always be a Strand reader!

Other bookish reality tv

If Look: Is That Your Book? proves to be a hit, I have other ideas: Pimp my Bookmobile, Keeping up with the Librariansand Top Writer. TLC, E!, and MTV, I’ll be waiting for your call!