Teacher Tales: Bibliophile
The art of reading is not dead. Oh, I know we’ve all heard about how printed books are on their way out. But, I am happy to report that people are still reading – at least at the Barnes and Noble where we did some shopping yesterday. I had expected the store to be half empty, with only a few gaunt-eyed, zombie-like folks (who survive on expensive coffee and Sylvia Plath) as patrons. However, much to my delight, the store was fairly crowded. There were families and single folks, younger adults and senior citizens- all browsing the racks, looking for their next great “read”.
Realizing that there were so many people, I focused on finding my printed quarry with laser-like focus, and a physicist’s precision. I deftly dodged the stroller- riding toddler, who offered me her unidentifiable.. Well, I don’t really know what exactly it was, but presumably it was candy. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. I shucked and jived the elderly woman who was poised to ask me where something or other was located. I was Walter Payton! I stiffed-armed the young mother, found that priceless opening in the aisle, and bolted through it as quickly as my wobbly knees would carry me. I was running the winning touchdown into the end zone, with seconds left in the game!
Not really. In fact, I was relaxed. People smiled and chatted with one another. The younger and older folks interacted in ways they probably never would have outside this magical place. We were all a part of something peaceful and enjoyable. Maybe some of my pleasure was derived from the warm, sweet smells wafting across the store from the café at the front. Maybe I was enjoying seeing people using polite manners and courtesy for a change. Whatever that unidentifiable “IT” was, I was reminded how much I enjoyed the smell of printed books, in a place where like- minded folks came to discover new worlds together.
One of the surprising finds I stumbled across was the tables full of reduced price books. Here, in front of my wife and complete strangers, I was transformed into a child again, savoring the deliciousness of the unexpected discovery. Every tome held secrets, just waiting for me to re-discover. I picked up a copy of “The Art of War” Mine! A few “set asides” later, I found a four novel collection of Hemingway, bound in a green leather. Then, to my delight, I found a book containing both “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience” by Thoreau. I gathered my magnificent bounty and made my way to the check out line, gift cards in my hot little hand.
As we left the coolly air conditioned store and ventured back into the broiling August afternoon, I was struck by the realization that I hadn’t really re-discovered these classic works at all. I had, in fact, rekindled some friendships with long- absent friends.