A bookstore is a magical place, I think. A properly tended bookstore, where the lights aren’t fluorescent and narrow shelves are covered with used books.
Sure, there is something to be said for what is generally considered “proper” lighting, and wide shelves with new, fresh-from-the-printer books.
But I prefer narrow aisles.
This is the point when the book has reached its halflife. Maybe even past its halflife. Once 10, maybe 20 or 30 dollars, one can find books here for even just $1.
As I walk the aisles I can feel the books calling. They were not calling my name, but they were calling to be wanted. To be desired, and to share their life with an appropriate person. The books reached out to me, tender cracks in their spines or proper binding smoothed with age begged for my hands to pull them down and flip through. Thick paper, onion paper, all pages that want turning. Line by line of words, in different typefaces.
All the decisions that went into this one little volume in my hand seem overwhelming. After the writer chooses the words, the editor makes sure they are the right one. The cover is created, the binding is selected, the paper is chosen. The printer finds the right print in the right typeface, and then the bookseller receives a box full in their next shipment.
I am not just holding a book. I am holding an economic force that has fed dozens, possibly hundreds of families. I am holding ideas that have fueled generations. Whether or not it made it to a best-sellers list, someone, at some point, chose to buy it at full price. In some way, this book has changed someones life.
I think I will just take this one, for $4.95.
I have been avoiding Hemingway for many years, but in light of a recent conversation, this book beckons me. Which volume of this edition? I juggle them, then pick one.
I walk up to the counter, and put mine in the middle of stacks of books.
“I’ll have this one,” I say, and the book has a new life.