Thursday, September 6, 2012

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 recently 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 two years 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 nearly the end of another long, tedious work week, after all. I was feeling a little tired. However, I had to come check out the blogosphere, 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.

I have always loved and treasured them, these objects that carry the thoughts and imaginings of humans who feel compelled to pour their inner beings 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 cars, have we not stopped for a moment in wonder before putting the key in the ignition, pulled the treasure out of its plastic bookstore bag, with the B&N logo on the front, or Books & Books, or Sandy's Attic Treasures, or whatever the name of the bookstore happened to be... have we not 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 two blogs, and they're 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 see what new treasures I might acquire? (The printed versions, of course.) After all, I simply must have yet another book - or books!


Brian Joseph said...

Hey Maria-This is one of best posts I have ever read anywhere! I could not agree with you more. I feel the exact same way in regard to books and reading.

Since we are in the Star Trek subject, I am sure that you remember Samuel T. Cogley's wondrous speech about books from the episode "Court Martial". It still brings tears to my eyes!

Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

Thank you so much!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! You know, when it comes to books, I wear my heart on my sleeve...I just can't say enough about these magical, wonderful objects that enclose such enchanting, awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, ideas or endless imaginings!!

Now that you mention that episode of STAR TREK, I will have to get it out and watch it yet again -- it's been much too long!!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a great comment!! : )

Jennifer Hartling said...

What a wonderful blog! I'm wild about nonfiction and I love meeting others who feel the same :)

Maria Behar said...

Hi, Jennifer!

Thank you so much!! I really appreciate your supportive comment!!

I started this blog because I've noticed that, on the two occasions I've reviewed nonfiction books on my fiction blog, A NIGHT'S DREAM OF BOOKS, I didn't get any comments. So I started this blog. The only problem is, I don't have much time, so I mostly post on my fiction blog. However, I WILL try to post here more often.

If you really like this blog, consider following!! I'd love to have you as a member!! : )

The Bearded Scribe said...


Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment, and more importantly, leading me to this great article which you have masterfully scribed.

I could not have expressed my love for books any better, nor, after reading this post, will I try. I will simply send them your way!

Have a WONDERFUL weekend, and may your love affair with books continue to grow and be requited.

Happy Scribing,

Joshua A. Mercier

Maria Behar said...

Oh, Joshua, thank you!!!! What a great compliment you've given me!! As you have just read, I LOVE books, and by books, I mean the printed format, exclusively!

I appreciate your visiting this blog and leaving such a wonderfully supportive comment!

Hope you have a GREAT weekend, as well!! : )

Elizabeth said...

Hi Maria,

What a wonderful post!! I too am an inveterate bookworm, and you echo my reasoning so beautifully. I am a librarian by trade (and a renegade bookworm/writer) and at least once I week I am asked if e-readers are going to drive libraries obsolete.

The answer to this, of course, is ABSOLUTELY NOT. The question usually ignites my temper and drives my eloquence away, so in future I am simply going to tell people no, and point them to your blogs...both of them!

Thanks again, so much, for your great thoughts!

-Elizabeth (Assistant Editor, The Bearded Scribe)

Maria Behar said...

Hi, Elizabeth!

Oh, thank you so much for your wonderful thoughts!! I'm so happy there are those bibliophiles like me out there who believe that printed books are much superior to ebooks!!!! YAY!!! I hope to find some organization, SOMEWHERE, dedicated to the fight to prevent publishing houses from not printing REAL books!!!!! Or perhaps to found a NEW publishing house dedicated totally to printing books!!!!

You know, when I started doing blog tours this year, on my other blog, I specifically told the tour company that I would NOT read, review, or promote ebooks in any way!!! And I will maintain my position for as long as I walk this planet!!

Thanks bunches for your lovely comments, and for pointing people to both of my blogs!!!! HUGS!!! : )

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Rosa Silva said...

Hi Maria,

This is one of the best quotes I've read about books. Great post!