Books

I brought a stack of books into my office today. They are in a pile on the floor: eighteen books for $18. They’re an odd lot, scavenged from a local library sale. Their simple presence makes me happy, like new acquaintences ready for conversation.

I do read a bit. I’m not a fast reader, but persistent. I find the notion of an unfinished book troubling. In reading I glimpse things I’ve not seen before, discover things I already knew but never named. Particular books can bring peace or restlessness. I can be encouraged or agitated, awed or sometimes bored. Some books become close friends, others I’ll likely not speak to again. Either way, tossing them out is almost impossible. I suppose I’ll need to one day, but not now.

The writer Anne Lamott understands. “For some of us,” she says, “books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us to understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

I know. Books don’t do it for everyone. There are many paths to knowing. There’s art and food, music and gardens, friendships and travel and tinkering in backyard sheds. But for me, language — carefully formed — has always been key. Written words, especially those that are lyrical in form, provide an invitation to knowing that I rarely find elsewhere. Reading calls me to pay attention in particular ways, to notice things, to sit with things and feel them. Books help me live well.

So, I reckon that’s $18 well spent.

 

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