Have you got it? I have, and it's great. Works most of the time but not reliable. When I was about 14 Edmund Blundon's ' Undertones of war' leapt from the shelves of a part of the library I used as a short cut to the science fiction/ thriller corner. Not the sort of book that a 14 year old would choose without some prompting, but I had to read it. Set me up for reading all those other first world war books and understanding the mud and filth.
Jack Kerouac came to me about the same time through 'Mad' magazine (remember Alfred E.?). They had done a beatnik satire and his name had come up. 'On the road' passed me by but I got hold of 'Lonesome Traveller' a much better read. Again a great introduction to some great books. Raymond Chandler's 'Little Sister' fell off the bookshelf at a girl friend’s house and has led me through Dashiell Hammett, Lawrence Block, James Ellroy, Walter Moseley, James Lee Burke, Donald Westlake, Ed McBain and all those other hard boiled American heroes. I can't remember how I found Simenon but European detective books edge themselves forward as I peruse the shelves. I was reading Sjowall and Wahloo in the 1970's, Van der Wettering not long after. I've never read any Dickens. Not that I don't want to, but the old serendipity doesn't steer me in that direction.
At times it's like Richard Dreyfuss in 'Close encounters' you get a little clue and you just have to get where it's leading no matter what. I worked with Barry whose white, moonlike face was a picture when he found that someone else had the serendip. We'd both found the same obscure books and didn't know why.
My son had a doctor's appointment and while he was in seeing the qwack his book was on top of his coat. 'No country for old men'. I was a chapter and a half in by the time he came out and have now read most of Cormac McCarthy's output. They're not all great but the worst is better than a lot of stuff out there.
It works with restaurants too. Strolling the dim streets of Krakow a little yellow doorway pulled me in for a delicious meal that cost most of a fiver including drinks and I don't know why that doorway was more appealing that the one across the road.
Christmas is a great time. I can go out without a list or a clue and come back with an armful of gifts. Nothing too expensive, but novel and funny and hopefully appreciated. It pisses madam off as she gets 14 presents and has only bought me 3. And one of those doesn't fit.
Maybe it's just luck, but it seems to work when you don't think about it.
Now where's that lottery ticket?
WW Adds: Thank you Mick. My favourite trick is to see a road and think "I wonder what's down there". A few months back I was in York Railway station, discussing with my sister a person we knew who I had not seen for over 25 years, and bumped into her there and then. I think it sort of freaked us all. None of us live anywhere near York.