We are all vision seekers. We seek knowledge of the past; hope for the future. The Native American may have gone into a secret place to commune with the unknown. We go into the world of books.
My passion for books came into being at such an early age that I presumed that it was an intrinsic quality, much like having brown hair. There were no books to read at my grandmother’s house, save her Bible and church literature. When my father was not at sea, his reading matter was far more interesting to me. He was an inveterate reader of fast-paced detective stories, as well as complicated naval manuals.
On the occasions in which I lived with Auntie and Uncle Phil, I headed immediately into their small library, which held all the old books from their daughter’s childhood, as well as reading material of interest to themselves. A small sunroom led off from the library, which formed a secret hiding place for me to sit with a book or two. The two of them had two comfortable chairs in the middle of the living room with table and lamp in between, where they spent their evenings reading before retiring at eight p.m. sharp.
My favorite places in the world are book stores, both new and used. As an only child I lost myself in the life and times of other people and places. Since we moved frequently at the Navy’s behest, books were a familiar and loved escape. The direction to the local library always came shortly after we settled into the new place, and a library card of your own was a treasured possession.
The delight of used bookstores came much later. Sadly there aren’t a lot of them around anymore, and the large chain bookstores seem to have disappeared with the advent of e-books. Fortunately internet shopping and the Half Price Book chain give us access to the world of books both old and new. There is something quite special about rummaging about in an old book store. There is always the possibility of finding something rare, or of finding a long-searched for book you can’t live without.
Both San Francisco and Seattle once had large old bookstores which carried not only books but old maps and prints. Dr. Advice once felt terribly proud to bring me a complete set of Dickens as a birthday gift. My granddaughter, an inveterate reader, shares my love of books, and I know I can always find something in an old bookstore she will love as well as I do.
There are so many people reading on their Kindle or computer these days, and Amazon and other companies make it simple for them to download a book immediately. Personally I would miss the feel and the smell of a book, plus the pleasure of passing it along to someone else. Browsing through friend’s homes to see what they keep on their bookshelves becomes another way to know them. I have one friend who scours thrift stores for old cookbooks. My home bookshelves are crowded with all sorts of books and we have shelves in every room in the house including bookshelves in the garage. A friend of my daughter looked around once and asked shat we did with all of them. “We read them of course”, I said, and them read the very good ones over again.
Dr. Advice had a knee replacement a decade ago, and since he only read the newspaper sports news up until that time, I wondered what he would do with all the long hours long during his recovery. The TV offerings can’t keep people fascinated for very long. I suggested he take up reading, and now he is never without a book in his hand. Louie Lamour, the author of many Western style books, was self-educated, and it is said he always had a book in his pocket. I have a number of friends I know to be great readers, and a normal greeting would be “What are you reading?”
Part of the excitement of an old bookstore is the smell which seems to have been absorbed into the woodwork. A combination of old paper, ink, and probably a lot of dust. A friend once stood in the doorway of my living room and announced that she “loved the smell” of it. It is a room we seldom use, and has the usual wall overflowing bookshelves. I asked her if she thought it might be like the smell of an old bookstore, and she went through a “Eureka!” moment before saying “That’s it!”