The older I get the more reclusive I become. I don’t get out much, and I’m OK with that for the most part. One of the few places I will willingly leave the comfort of my cloister to visit is a local used book store. It’s like my Hermitage away from home. It’s nothing special in terms of aesthetics or ambiance. It’s a glorified warehouse space with bare concrete floors, densely packed with rows upon rows of book shelves, all filled to capacity. In most cases, the shelves are gluttonously filled well over capacity. It’s glorious. Disney World is wrong, for me, this is the happiest place on earth.
The books there seem to be almost tangentially organized, like they were arranged according to conversation rather than by category. There’s a loose structure, a rough outline, the topics and genres move seamlessly from one to another, and sometimes off shoot to unintended places, places where one has lost their train of thought, when one must pause to reflect and wonder how they even got there. This isn’t the kind of book store you go to looking for something specific. If you do, you’ll, more than likely, leave disappointed and unimpressed. If you’re searching for specificity, you probably won’t find it here. This is not the kind of book store you go to seek out “a book”. This is the kind of book store in which the books start to seek you.
Neil Gaiman says that “Somewhere, there is a book written just for you’ and that “It will fit your mind like a glove fits your hand.” And, this, is my favorite part of good bookstores. They are places that effortlessly swing between luck and serendipity, fate and destiny. Somewhere in the course of perusing the shelves and fumbling across titles we discover books that seem to be crafted and created for us. A wild goose chase that ends with us being given a sacred gift by a stranger; a love letter written to us from a friend we have never known; a book that knows us better than we know ourselves. Here, the real discovery isn’t that we find books that can nestle themselves so perfectly into the folds and furrows of our hearts, but these books have a way of finding us.
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