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    The shelves at Carmichael’s Bookstore include a “blind date with a book” section, which features hand-picked staff favorites concealed in brown wrapping paper with one or two written or illustrated hints about what’s inside: “It was autumn. The springtime of death”; “Raymond Carver + Don DeLillo + poetry”; “My first blind date with a male writer — for fans of popular culture and the band KISS.” The clue for Foundation, part of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi series: “You can’t spend your whole life online.” And for West Wingers: “A warm hug of Obama-era nostalgia.”

    Kelly Estep is the niece of the store’s current owners and with her cousin is in the process of buying the small chain of bookstores (on Frankfort Avenue and Bardstown Road) that began at the corner of Bardstown and Bonnycastle Avenue 40 years ago. Estep says she came across the “blind date” idea while visiting the Asheville, North Carolina, bookstore Malaprop’s five or six years ago. She gambled on a book the staff there had cryptically described: the 2008 novel Serena, set in 1930s North Carolina. “It was funny because it was a book I really wanted to read. I just hadn’t gotten around to it,” she says.

    Estep says that while the books have been popular and tend to go in about a day, the 30-plus Carmichael’s employees keep putting fresh picks out there. “You could put out a 40-year-old book that you really like that no one’s really heard of, but it’s a classic — and there are plenty of those,” she says.

    “We’re never going to run out of ideas or books we feel excited about.”

    This originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine as the We Love bit. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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