Tag reading

An ode to the book

When I was a child, I dreamt of building my own home – a quaint cottage rooted in the woods on my own secluded island whose sole exterior architectural marvel would be its blending in as if it perfectly belonged. The interior rooms would be equally nondescript – clean lines, simple colors, soft lighting, and sparse furnishings – save for one massive central room to which all others would lead: a library housing my entire collection of books.

It is said that home is where the heart is, and even at a young age, books lay at the center of mine. Apart from friends and family, nothing shaped me more than the words written therein. Whether it was for imagination, inspiration, erudition, or stimulation, books never failed to sustain me.

Books were to my mind and soul what food and drink are to the body – necessary. And yet, they were sufficiently diverse to suit every taste in the palette. One could as easily indulge in books as one could be poisoned by them. You are, after all, what you consume. The law of the balanced diet applies to reading as equally as it does to eating.

So, I read a bit of everything – what I liked; what I disliked; what excited me; what bored be; what pleased me; what revolted me. To be clear, I had my preferences. I would choose the classics over contemporary fiction any day; graphic novels routinely bested economic treatises; and there was more to mull over in a mystical text than the average scholarly tome.

Though my tastes continued to refine, my appreciation for books remained in the broadest of senses. As I grew older, that appreciation grew into an admiration not only of the content but of the physical anatomy of the book. Reading wasn’t merely a psychological experience but a sensual one, too. The weight of the book, the feel of the spine and cover in the hand, the print on the page, and, of course, the turning of each leaf was inextricable from the phenomenon of reading one.

So much was my fascination for books that in my early 20s I began collecting them semi-seriously, amassing a considerable personal library with a few editions worth more than most would pay for the latest in consumer technology.

My tastes extended to the aesthetics of the book itself. Each book was a self-contained whole. Its physical form ought to complement its content. Seeing both parts of Either/Or or Goethe’s Faust in the same physical entity struck me as Frankensteinian, never mind monstrosities like complete works or [shudder] anthologies. And yet, through it all, I cherished a soiled paperback of Nietzsche’s Joyful Wisdom as much as an early edition of Khayyám’s Rubáiyát.

Oh, to be young again and dream! Though I have yet to own my first home – let alone my own island – and my library amounts to several sated bookshelves, my fondness for books remains undying. Though I still find it nigh impossible to divorce the experience of reading from the book itself, the open mind I developed experiencing a plethora of them reminds me to be open to the possibility.

And so, I prepare to bid the book adieu. Farewell! I love thee, but I love reading that much more.