Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Because of a book...

Because of a book, Iain Banks’ strangely wonderful dreamscape The Bridge, I decided to email the cute boy I had had such an interesting conversation with the night before. We were in college and we had talked about vision and that strange sensation of when you are so focused on one subject, the rest of the world seems to gray out. And lo’ and behold, there was a passage about that right there in The Bridge. What did it mean? Had he read the book as well? Was fate trying to tell me something?

I emailed him, he emailed me back. He hadn’t read the book, but he did like to read. And a dialogue began that tumbled into a relationship that, eight years later, has resulted in a marriage and a room full ofoverflowing bookshelves stacked three books deep.

Isn’t it funny how books cause us to meet the most interesting people? A stranger on the train who you notice is always reading your favorite books or that person who has a library book sticking out of their bag at a party? I am always asking my friends and family “what are you reading?” (or in some cases “listening to” for fans of audio books). And then I write down yet another title to look at when I’m back in the store.

I’m new to this bookselling business—I’ve worked in marketing and publishing for a number of years and have loved books ever since I could put words together, but this is the first time I’ve worked in a bookstore. I’m charged with continuing Alison Morris’s legacy of fantastic children’s events, bringing great authors to the store and to local schools. Big shoes to fill! I’m getting to meet a lot of cool authors and I hope you will too.

An added bonus is that I get to work with and meet such avid and expansive readers like yourselves. I love seeing customer’s choices when they come up to the register. Or the people who wander from section to section, picking out some books from Column A, some from Column B. Children that camp out on the floor with a pile of books. A co-worker who presses a book into my hands and says “You MUST read this.” The piles of galleys and books on my desk/floor/nightstand are growing.

What is even more intriguing is why people read. Some are looking for entertainment, some for facts, some for a good story or good writing or good characters. Is someone choosing short stories because of their brevity or their depth? Or choosing biographies for their truth, their history, or maybe (just a little)for their voyeurism? Genres and bookstore sections try to help us classify what we like to read and why we like to read it, but sometimes we have to figure out the subtitles for ourselves: Picture Books-- Because Sometimes Art Tells a Truer Story than Words or Science Fiction-- Because It Makes Me Think Hard About the Future (and okay, I think space travel and aliens are kind of cool).

Why do I read? Well, it has a lot to do with that sensation described in The Bridge. That curious sense of focus that causes the book world before me to leap from the page in full color while the rest of the world fades to stillness and gray. This makes it very hard to distract me while I’m reading (though I’ve gotten good at responding to my name – years of practice reading books behind my desk at school). I relish being able to turn the rest of the world off for a few moments and live in someone else's for awhile.

What do you like to read and why?


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