I fell in love this morning. No, not with a person, pet, piece of music, or even a place. I fell in love with a book.
Let's set the stage: Yesterday was busy, cold, and rainy. After coming back from aerobics this morning, I wrote a very emotional e-mail to some friends (totally unrelated to the rest of this). After crying a bit, I decided on one of my favorite, cold-weather self-indulgences. A hot bath with a good book.
Now, I almost never read before lunch. Between homeschooling, aerobics, and church, mornings are busy. I think the last time I read before lunch was... maybe last June. So, we're talking seriously self-indulgent here.
Yesterday, I picked out a few books while we were out at the library*. The one which struck my eye yesterday, and again this morning, was a small book. Not small, length-wise, but height-wise. It's more the height of a paperback rather than the standard hardback size. The title, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, sounds cozy and warm, and the cover (right), with the "lighthouse" made of books, is fun.
Settling down in the bubble bath with my book, I opened it and fell in love:
When I walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, first thing in the morning, I'm flooded with a sense of hushed excitement. I shouldn't feel this way. I've spent most of my adult life working in bookstores, either as a bookseller or a publisher's sales rep, and even though I no longer work in the business, as an incurable reader I find myself in a bookstore at least five times a week. Shouldn't I be blasé about it all by now? In the quiet of such mornings, however, the store's displays stacked squarely and its shelves tidy and promising, I know that this is no mere shop. When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters, too, the day's weather and the day's news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain - books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time.
Lewis Buzbee is so good at describing the experience of the book-lover and the bookstore:
...The cash register's chime does not define how long we can linger. A bookstore is for hanging out. Often for hours... I might browse covers awhile after meeting up with a friend, the two of us chatting about our lives. Or I can sit down in History and read the first chapter of a charming treatise on the complex language of hand gestures in high Renaissance Naples. As you might be reading right now, taking your own sweet time....
Imagine going into a department store, trying on a new jacket and walking around in it for half an hour; maybe coming back the following Wednesday to try it on again with no real intention of buying it. Go into a pizzeria and see if you might sample a slice; you're pretty hungry, so you taste a bit of the pepperoni, the sausage, the artichoke and pineappple, and they're delicious but not quite what you're looking for that day. In other retail shops, the clerks and mamagement are much less forgiving of those customers who would consume withoug paying.
And the sense of discovery:
The invitation of the bookstore occurs on so many levels that it seems we must take our time. We peruse the shelves, weaving around the other cutomers, feeling a cold gust of rain from the open door, not really knowing what we want. Then there! on the heaped table, or hidden on the lowest dustiest shelf, we stumble on it. A common thing, this volume. There maybe five thousand copies of this particular book in the world, or fifty thousand, or half a million, all exactly alike, but htis one is as rare as if ti had been made solely for us. We open to the first page, and the universe unfolds, once upon a time.
I enjoy his descriptions of other little tidbits of the reader's life: book-snooping (trying to see what others are reading in public), filling out Scholastic book orders in elementary school - and the feeling of "Mine? Mine?" as the teacher lifts each bundle of books out of the box when the order arrives, and the common reader's story**:
I was ____ years old when I happened on a novel called ____, and within six months I had read every other book by the writer known as ______.
I was fifteen. The Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck.
I'm only about 60 pages into it - it's a book to linger over, not race through. More to enjoy.
I read a number of book blogs, and I've been trying to figure out why. It's not just because I'm looking for new books to read, because I've got a long list of books recommended from various places (book reviews, footnotes in other books, things I've seen at stores). It's not just because I enjoy reading positive reviews of familiar books.
I enjoy book blogs because I like to see other people enjoying reading. Even if I never have a chance to read the book they're discussing, and even if the book isn't one I'd care to read, the experience of appreciating... living in... resting in... relating to a book is fun to see.
* I also brought home: Letters to a Young Journalist by Samuel G. Frendman, Roar Softly and carry a great lipstick edited by Autumn Stephens (from the Women's History Month display), Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class by Thom Hartmann, The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges - and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates by Daniel Golden (mentioned in the review of college books), and the barefoot home: dressed-down design for casual living by Marc Vassallo.
*Twelve. Farmer in the Sky. Robert Heinlein.