Saturday, May 14, 2011

For the Love of Books....

"You fall in love with every book you touch. You never break the spine or tear the pages. That would be cruel. You have secret favorites but, when asked, you say that you could never choose. But did you know that books fall in love with you, too? "

The quote above is from an essay written by an author I have just re-discovered.  The title is "Just So You Know".  The author's name is Sarah Addison Allen

I had seen one of Allen's novels in a Barnes & Noble store about a year ago, and made a mental note to purchase the book later.  The book's title is Garden Spells.  I had somehow forgotten the book and its author, however.  Inexcusable behavior for an inveterate bookworm like me!  In a rather serendipitous manner, the book has now gotten my attention again, and I now know I am meant to buy it.  How else can I make sense of this little coincidence?

Before I am tempted to digress further, I have to explain how I came upon this wonderful quote, how I found the essay and read it in its entirety, discovering the author anew.

As I read, my eyes filled, even as I began to smile, for the author's delightful words touched my core -- my heart of hearts, where the love of books swells and swells, until I am nearly bursting with it.  Books, to me,  are mysterious, wonderful portals to worlds unknown, ideas about to blossom and take flight.  They bring me the deepest happiness I have ever known on earth, comparable only to the happiness of union with one's beloved.

I hadn't meant to post anything tonight.  It's the end of another long, tedious work week, after all.  I was feeling tired.  However, I had to come check out the blogosphere, to see if yesterday's Great Blogger Blackout  had at last ended. It had, thankfully, so I settled in to catch up with my own blog, as well as others.
So it was that I discovered the wonderfully eclectic blog An Armchair By The Sea, in which Bex, the blog's owner, holds forth on any and all genres, from the very literary-looking town of Broadstairs, located in Kent, England.   Bex featured this quote in one of her posts, linking to Allen's essay as well.  I followed the trail, which led to the author's website, found and read the essay, which is full of very vivid, whimsical imagery, and felt inspired to write a post about it, since it touched that special place I have for books.

Before I knew it, it was nearly midnight.  I put the finishing touches on my post, and published it.  I had run over into Saturday.  My bibliophile's passion had carried me away...

I have always loved and treasured them, these objects that carry the thoughts and imaginings of humans who feel compelled to pour their inner being out on the page, sharing their hidden longings, passions, ideas, and invented tales with their eager readers.  These objects have a long, honored history.  They have a special presence in the world.  They not only beckon, but entice.  Yes, Allen is right -- books fall in love with us, too.  How many times, for instance, have I felt the siren call, and, as if mesmerized, found my way to the nearest bookstore, only to find just the book I wanted, waiting for me?  How many times have I stumbled upon a fantastic new author, whether of fiction or non-fiction, and started to read, only to find myself waking to the real world two or more hours later, then making a mad dash for the cash register to pay for my newly-found treasure, just before the store closed for the night?

Yes, books fall in love with us.  They seduce us.  So it is that we find ourselves suddenly possessed by them, almost without realizing just what has happened....  

And what of those times, as mentioned by Allen, in which, in a futile attempt to "stop spending so much money on books", we turn our backs on a volume that has unerringly wooed us, and walk out of a bookstore with a heavy heart?  Have we not always inevitably returned, rather desperately, hoping almost against hope that no one else has snatched up the precious one?  Have we not felt that delicious wash of relief at seeing the book still sitting on the shelf -- or wherever we had hidden it, as I have frequently done -- silently and smugly waiting for us, sure that we would return to correct our ridiculous mistake? Have we not then even hugged the treasure to our chests, triumphantly marching toward the cash register, where we then eagerly divested ourselves of our hard-earned money in order to own said treasure?  Ah.....and then, once out in the parking lot, and in our car, we stopped for a moment in wonder before putting the key in the ignition, pulled the treasure out of its plastic bookstore bag, with the Borders logo on it, or perhaps B&N, or Books & Books, or Sandy's Attic Treasures, or whatever the name of the bookstore happened to be...we pulled out our new book, reverently, staring long and lovingly at it, caressing its shiny, beautifully-designed cover... So we reveled in looking at and holding this wonderful object, and last, it was ours, and only ours.  It had already become part of us.

For those of us who must satisfy our addiction as soon as possible (although we have to wait for our wonderful objects to arrive on our door), there's always the Internet, of course.  In that case, who has not known the thrill of "sniping" on eBay at the very last minute, snatching a coveted book in an auction we weren't sure we would win?  Which of us die-hard bookworms have not searched and scrolled on Amazon or Goodreads, analyzing reviews, and then happily pulled out our almost maxed-out credit cards to place an order for a book we "simply must have"?

It's a great relationship, that of humans and books.  It's an eternal marriage, for those of us that truly love them.  Neither divorce nor annulment are an option.  A book calls out to us, and we respond with love.  We strive to own it, as it strives to own us.  If a book is not for us, we will not feel this call.  There will be no relationship, no marriage.  But when a book exerts its mysterious pull on us, it is calling to the depths of our being, and there is something in us akin to that book.  If there weren't, we would not feel the pull, the call.

Some of us are born with this love, this vulnerability to the siren call of books.  Some of us are not.  For those of us who are, a book will always be preferred as a present, on any occasion.  Other presents will be enjoyed, but a book will always be a very special gift, one that, if it matches our soul, will be a life-long companion,  never to die, always part of our inner being.

It is with a long sigh of satisfaction that we close a book that we have finished reading, one that we have truly enjoyed.  We have loved it, and it has loved us.  But the greatest wonder of all is that we can come back to our beloved.  We can open its portals again and again any time we wish, inhaling its heady fragrance, and jump into its world, or ponder upon its theories and ideas.  It's a magical relationship, that of humans and books -- real books, that is, the ones that can be held in one's hands, the ones with pages that can be turned, instead of scrolled.  There's nothing to compare, at least for me, with the joys of owning and being owned by a physical book.  Captain Kirk, in the original Star Trek series, fully agreed with me.  He was a citizen of the 23rd century, a time in which books were no longer printed on paper, but found only on computers.  He wistfully and lovingly kept a small hoard of beloved "antique books" on a shelf in his cabin aboard the Enterprise.  In his moments of leisure, when not dealing with devious Romulans or aggressive Klingons, he would dip into this sacred well, smiling with that peculiar satisfaction known only to the insatiable bookworm...

It's rather ironic that I'm upholding the value of printed books through this medium that uses no paper...  Yes, I have a blog, and it's on a machine, after all.  Still, one must profess one's love in whatever way one can!  So I profess my love of printed books on a computer.  Kirk would have smiled at that.

What more can I say at this point, except that I'm heading over to Amazon, as soon as I finish posting this bibliophile's dream, in order to buy Garden Spells?  (The printed version, of course.)  After all, I simply must have this book...and why not, every other book she's written, too!


  1. Such a beautiful post, Maria! Your writing is just superb, and perfectly describes the way I feel about books as well. It's true there is no better gift in the world than a book-- nothing else can even begin to compare. :)

    I love Sarah Allen's quote-- and the picture you paired it with. So perfect!

  2. Great post. Yes, there will always be a place for printed books even when most books we sold are ebooks.

  3. Thank you so much, Kat!! You've made my weekend!! Sometimes I wonder why I'm blogging, since it seems my posts are barely noticed, let alone read. You make it all worthwhile, with your wonderfully supportive comments!

    I'm so glad I have mirrored your feelings. I'm sure all true book lovers feel this way about books.

    Yes, Sarah Allen's quote is just wonderful! You have to read, and savor her entire essay. Just click on the link I have provided. You'll be swept away, and I'm not exaggerating! Lol.

    As for the picture, I initially saw it on Goodreads, and downloaded it to my PC's picture file. Glad you liked the pairing!

    Thank you so much for your visit, and especially your comment!!!! : )

  4. Hi, Cody! Yes, I sure hope there will always be a place for printed books!!

    Thanks for your visit, and especially your comment! :)

  5. +JMJ+

    Maria, it is very late where I am, and I'm not feeling very lucid, so I should probably wait until tomorrow to leave you a proper comment . . . but Sarah Addison Allen's quote is so beautiful and so true that it demands an immediate response!

    I've just got back from dinner with a friend who doesn't understand our passion for preserving book spines. To him, it's as if we're saying, "Don't even open the book!" And he wonders, "How can I read it, if I don't open it???" A few creases on the spine don't seem like a very big deal to him.

    I tried to explain the magic in the physical fact of a book. Yes, what truly matters is the text--which is represented by the print, but is greater than the print--and if a book is completely ruined, one can usually find another copy. And yet . . . my copy is my copy. There are books that I've taken to other countries--or bought in other countries and taken home. There are books that still smell like my childhood--and books that smell like the mothballs that used to be in a dresser drawer that I had to use for storage after I ran out of shelf space. There are books that shared my mischief when I sneaked them during lectures, understood my boredom when I pulled them out them during parties, and respected my night owl nature when I read them under the covers way past bedtime. There are books I still mourn because some awful people (supposed friends) borrowed them and never gave them back. I can't bring myself to buy new copies just to round out my library; I want my old copies to round out my friends! To me, every book has both a body and a soul, and I try to respect this integrity.

    I suppose it's worth noting that my friend admits to owning only six physical books, although he has tons of titles uploaded on his Kindle.

    I'll come back tomorrow to read and comment on the rest of your post. =)

  6. Hi, Enbrethiliel!

    What a wonderful comment you've posted! I can see that physical books are very precious to you, too!

    I can't understand why some people are so careless with books. Creases do not mysteriously appear on the spines of paperback books; they are put there by readers who BEND the front cover back just as if the book were a magazine! This is so HORRIBLE! It's not at all necessary to do this in order to read the book!! I NEVER read a paperback that way. You can open the book, sure, but what causes those awful creases is the cover being bent back. This also causes the spine to tilt. So, by the time one of these people finish with a paperback, the poor book is finished!!

    As for hardcovers, if one is not careful, the spine will break. That, to me, is indeed heartbreaking -- to see a hardcover with the spine broken. But I'm not sure how this would happen. It's not that difficult to handle a hardcover carefully.

    Your friend is obviously what could be called "a functional reader", to coin a term. In other words, to him, function is more important than form. He values the information contained in books, but not the book itself as object. That's why he owns a Kindle with lots of ebooks on it, and only SIX physical books.

    Such people will never understand those of us who know, as you say, that a book has a body and a soul!

    As for your attachment to a PARTICULAR copy of a book, I can understand this, too. If you lend your copy out, and it doesn't come back to you, a replacement copy will NEVER be quite the same. That's one of the reasons I stopped lending books out YEARS ago! The other reason is that, when a book DID return, I could see it had been heavily mistreated. So I firmly decided to politely refuse to lend someone a book, from then on!

    I'm looking forward to more of your thoughts! Thank you so much for your visit and comment! : )

  7. +JMJ+

    Speaking of particular copies: I think I can top the universal story of falling in love with a book, not buying it immediately, and then feeling immense relief upon returning to the store and finding that it is still there . . . But mine is not a happy story, so brace yourself!

    A couple of years ago, a cousin I call "Fire Storm" started reading Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. I can't remember why, but I know he wasn't too happy about it at first. He even offered to sell me his copies after he was done with them (at a reasonable secondhand rate, of course). So I took him up on it, and since he was done with the first book, The Lightning Thief, I took it home that very day.

    So far, so good, right?

    Well, somewhere between that afternoon and the next time I saw him again, he found out that some of his friends really, really love the Percy Jackson books, and that they thought he was incredibly cool for having started them himself! You know what that meant, right? =S

    Never mind that I had already read his/my copy of The Lightning Thief and wanted to keep it. Fire Storm wanted it back! =( And being the reasonable older cousin in the relationship, I had to do the mature thing and give it back. Yes, I got a full refund . . . but no, that didn't make it right.

    To this day, I haven't bought another copy of The Lightning Thief or even read any of the other books in the series. I want "my" copy back first. =(

    Perhaps I'll get over it in the future--because I do want to read the rest of the series. But at the moment, I still feel a bit bereft.

    (I told this story to my "functional reader" friend and he was just baffled!)

    By the way, I hardly ever lend books out any longer, either!

  8. Gosh! That wasn't very nice of your cousin! You shouldn't have given up your copy of "The Lightning Thief"!

    I can understand your attachment to that particular copy of the book. I'm sorry that happened to I don't blame you for not lending books out yourself. And especially not to your cousin!

    But you know, you really should buy yourself another copy of this book, and guard it jealously! You know you're not going to be able to get the original one back. Then, you have to do something to make this book your very own. You have to bond with the book. I suggest buying a plastic cover (such as the ones made by Brodart, which you can order on Amazon) to cover the dustjacket with. Or you can buy Duck plastic laminate (also sold on Amazon, my very favorite online store, and no, I get no, and laminate the DJ. Then, buy a pack of pretty bookplates, and print (by hand)or write your name and the year of purchase on one of them, with a nice pen. After that, just glue the bookplate to the first blank page of the book. If the endpapers are very nice, then choose an inner page.

    The thing is to make the book really and truly yours! Then you will begin to treasure it, and stop missing the other one! Besides, this one will be brand new (unless you prefer to buy it used, but even then, I wouldn't buy it if it wasn't at least in "like new" condition)!!

    I sure hope you do this, and feel better!! And HUG your personalized book every night before going to bed! Lol.

    Thanks for the visit and the comment!! :)


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