Today I went on a quest to find Dava Sobel's new book, "The Planets." Since it was a new release, I assumed I'd have better luck in a larger chain store than a smaller, old-school bookshop. So I went to my local Books, Etc. Nice place; in a mall and everything. JK Rowling had a signing there- fairly high profile. Such a place should have the latest book from the author of Longitude; after all, that was on TV.
So I went up to the enquiries desk.
"Do you have any books on astronomy?" I asked.
"Astronomy, yes. Try the New Age section."
Now I am a naive enough person to assume that the man had not confused "astronomy" with "astrology" and that, for some reason, books on astronomy were included in the New Age section. So I went over there, and found that the New Age section comprised three entire shelves, floor to ceiling, but no books on astronomy.
So I returned to enquiries, my "Talking to idiots" cap firmly on my head.
"Do you have a science section?" I asked.
"Yees.. try the reference section near children's literature."
OK. Reference. Lots of titles on how to fill out your tax forms, or the philosophy of religion, but no science books. At all.
So I left in a huff, determined never to buy anything from that coffee-stained hell-hole ever again.
On a happy note, I did eventually find the book. In a small, old-school bookshop, among many other intellectually stimulating titles.
But please, what is happening to the world when a major bookshop can have three shelves devoted to half-baked New Age mysticism and no books on science?