I don’t know how to describe for you my love of old books (but I’ll try).
The bend of a good, flexible paperback in your hand that doesn’t fight back when you get just past the middle of the story.
The accidental fold marks on the cover of a book that you got new but read and read and carried around in your bag.
The hint of sweet book-smell on old pages that makes you lean in for a deeper sniff.
The heartbreaking crack of a spine when the glue was more brittle than you expected.
The sheer, innumerable possibilities contained in the ramshackle shelves of a used book store, and the stories the books themselves have seen as they traveled through other people’s lives.
The magic of finding the perfect book in an unexpected place—a junk shop, a friend’s house, a garage sale…
And then there’s new books.
New books are amazing, too, don’t get me wrong. I love the smooth pages sliding under my fingers, the fresh smell of new ink on a recently printed copy. I especially like new books if I’m collecting a series that I know I want to keep on my shelf forever. It would actually be really ha
rd for me to quantify whether I’ve bought more new books or more used books in my life. I love a good book in pretty much any shape, size, or wear and tear.
Bookstores are really incredible,
when you think about it. You can walk into a space filled with bits of paper gathered together with glue (and sometimes string), hand over a little bit of money, and walk out with new ideas that are yours to keep. Don’t have a good memory? It’s ok, you bought the book, just read it again! [Don’t worry, I’ll blog about the amazingness that is libraries at another time.]
One of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett, wrote a book about dragons and kings and cities that describes the magic of books better than anything I could think of:
The truth is that even big collections of ordinary books distort space, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned secondhand bookshop, one of those that look as though they were designed by M. Escher on a bad day and has more staircases than storys and those rows of shelves which end in little doors that are surely too small for a full-sized human to enter. The relevant equation is: Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.
-Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!