Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Heaven Is a Book Store

I really appreciate the convenience of ordering books online, and I'm always thrilled when I can send readers to online booksellers to find copies of my older books, but there's still nothing like a flesh-and-blood book store.

It's been a while since I let myself walk into one because they're dangerous places for me when money's a little tight. Maybe I could resist the urge to buy books if I absolutely had to. I'm not sure. It's never actually happened.

While shopping with my youngest daughter one day, I actually had a conversation in which I listed food as a frivilous "want," while books fell on the "need" side of the list. It took us both about 20 minutes to realize what we'd done. Even then, we didn't move books to the "want" side. We just realized that we're kind of weird, and that some people might have issues with our priorities.

After a prolonged absence from the book store, walking into one is . . . well, it might sound sacreligious to some, but it's almost like a religious experience. The smell of books represents both safety and adventure to me. It's part of countless wonderful experiences beginning in early childhood and continuing right on up to the present day. I can still close my eyes and imagine walking into the Bookmobile as a little girl, inhaling that incredible smell, and then wandering through the shelves to pick out the stories I wanted to read.

When I was a young married woman and my mother-in-law came to town for her once-a-year visit, the two of us always stole away to the book store. My mother had introduced me to some great authors whose books I still love to this day, but my mother-in-law had different reading tastes and she opened a whole new world to me. I have books on the shelves in my office that I bought decades ago on book store trips with Kathryn, and all these years later all I have to do is look at the cover and I'm transported back in time.

This morning, I had to pick up two non-fiction books for various projects, so after visiting the dentist and stopping at the grocery store, I headed for my local bookseller. Halfway there, I realized that I needed company, so I rounded up my daughters, and the three of us headed into booklover heaven. I'd say that we spent way too much, but really! How can you spend too much on books? It's just not possible.

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