I was in Starbucks this morning, as I often am, and noticed a man reading at a table. I envied him because I find nothing more pleasurable than being lost in a great book. I love the leisure of reading, the unhurried, savoring of words and pages, characters and places. I have little time to read these days and miss it like an alcoholic misses Jim Beam. I miss the weight of the book in my hand, the smell of the paper and the feel of the print across the page.
It is funny to me now that some of my favorite childhood memories are going to the library with my father. He was reader and on Thursdays the library was open late so we would go and, although I had no interest in the books themselves, I was fascinated by the building, the community and the silence. Our town library is in an old mansion with grandeur unmatched by any modern building. Although most walls were covered with books, the reading room was left in almost an original state; the walls covered with old portraits, there were great wing backed leather chairs, a fireplace large enough to stand in and an ornate ceiling so far beyond reach that it could have been the night sky. The greatest appeal however was the unopposed silence. People strew about in their own selves, browsing, in search of another world, everyone alone yet together with a common bond. Although few words were every heard, the energy and serenity was loud as any voice I’ve ever heard.
Although I am a reader now, I was a later bloomer. Of course I learned to read at the normal young age and read the requisite Judy Bloom and Encyclopedia Brown, but only really started to appreciate the written word after taking a literature class called “Spiritual Autobiographies” in college. During this course I read Malcolm X, Gandhi and Simon Weil, among others and became fascinated by the journeys which unfolded before my eyes, page after page, after page. These books opened my eyes to the infinite world of experience and perspective and every book since enforced the same. Since then I have read many, many books of different various genres and topics ranging from physics to Dracula, neurological disorders to Buddhism and superheroes to scientists. I read the classics and unknown authors. I read what appeals to me at the moment. I like to sometimes get lost in someone else’s journey, a temporary escape from my own. So as I sit here writing, I’m thinking of the long novel on my bedside table that I began reading weeks ago and look forward to the next time I can pick it up and get lost.