This is my usual reaction to book covers, much as a black bird is attracted to glistening shreds of tinfoil, so I am drawn to the fresh, creaseless covers of new books. It’s almost a shame to read them, to break their backs, sending cracks down their spines. But I do, of course. To leave words unread would be ludicrous.
Equally attractive is the used bookstore, with its hidden, dusty volumes and yellow pages that crackle with age. The heavy tomes of forgotten wisdom are waiting in breathless silence for a new owner, for someone to gaze upon the pages and drink in the stories they tell. Waiting for someone to fall in love again. And the smell of old books! They smell like a gloomy night, the type of night you sit at your desk with the lamp light shining softly down, the only sound is the quiet rustling of the pages, the crack of the fire and the tapping of rain at the window. They smell like pirate ships and sorcerers, armored knights and vikings, fierce battles and tranquil forests.
And sometimes there are stories hidden within stories. A scribble here, a signature here,
“This book belongs to…”
“This book was given to….”
There are emotions attached to books, tear splotched, torn pages. I once examined a pair of old autograph books. They were filled with memories, verses people had written, well wishes and handwritten poetry. One book was filled all the way, the other only halfway. I pressed my hands to the glass eagerly, lost in the little story card beside the display. Twin girls had been given these autograph books, and one had died of scarlet fever very young. Her sister went on to fill her own book, but she kept her dead sister’s book with her, unsigned and empty. I had to turn away from the books, for fear I should fog up the glass a little. How silly, to stand there sniffling at the display case.
There is something about books, new or used. Something that makes me want to take them all home and learn their stories. Sometimes, on those cold, rainy nights when the fireplace casts shadows in the corners and the house is silent and sleeping, I retreat to my library, working my way around the room to run my fingertips over the spines of the books, listen to them whisper. Which one of us is next?