Ode to Books

There are fewer things more personal.  Each one has a story and it reveals quite a lot about you.  Really, it’s a brave thing, putting your books out on a shelf for others to see.  Seldom have I read a book more euphoric about a book than Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night.  A deeply literate book collector unashamed, Manguel takes the reader on a pleasurable tour of many aspects of libraries, including his personal one.  Libraries may represent many things because books are so varied.  Many of us who are bibliophiles are used to trying to justify our libraries to those who don’t care to read or to complaining movers threatening to quit.  Or even to those who write books claiming other books are clutter.  Manguel understands.

Those of us with many books but little of anything else can tell you the story behind most individual books we have.  Where we bought them and why.  Why we’ve kept them even if we haven’t read them.  Manguel understands that not all books are reading books.  There are reference books.  There are episodic instructional books.  There are books laid up against retirement or incapacitation.  Books for work, books for play.  Books bought to help you prepare for that event that never took place but might, in some remote future, still happen.  Yes, books take up space, but so do pets, furniture, and children.  There’s a cheerfulness to rooms with books, unrivaled even by elegant spaces.

On a recent dentist visit the television was set to one of those shows where a couple is given their dream home.  I’ve watched those before in other waiting rooms and medical facilities and one thing I’ve never seen is a couple saying, “I want a home to fit my books.” And yet those homes with books occasionally make the news and garner thousands of clicks on the internet.  Those of us who are bibliophiles know we’re a minority.  Some of us actually enjoyed those high school reading assignments that so many of our classmates despised.  Our educational system, undervaluing teachers as we do, often fails to inspire the love of reading in the young.  Manguel’s book is for those who were inspired, who remain inspired by books.  Those of us who categorize and move them around.  Take them with us.  Who love them.  The Library at Night is a beautiful book full of wisdom.  It is a love letter to books. Happy National Independent Bookstore Day!

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