The Comfort of Books

I have more books than places to reasonably store them. I have piles next to my bed, on the coffee table, on the floor. There are piles next to the piano, on top of the piano, and the bookshelves themselves are at such great capacity that they seem to be leaning against one another for mutual support.

I can’t put my finger on just what it is about books. Is it the romance of the page, the well aligned typeface, the quality paperback size that fits oh so uncomfortably perfect in the palm of your hand? I am not a fan of hardcover books (though I read many of them), for they are far too cumbersome to carry with me as I travel on the train and read. The mass market size books seem too temporary in size to be taken seriously. No. I love a good quality paperback size book; it has substance and size, but not too much weight. Its presence alone says that it will provide companionship on the road which you travel, and will not weigh you down.

Today I found myself hungry for yet even more words, and so to the bookstore I went – looking of course, for nothing in particular, yet I knew it the moment I found it. It was in an unsuspecting volume of collected essays by Mary Oliver where I discovered today’s delight.

“And whoever thinks these are wordy, breathy words I am writing down is kind. Writing is neither vibrant life nor docile artifact but a text that would put all its money on the hope of suggestion. Come with me into the field of sunflowers is a better line than anything you will find here, and the sunflowers themselves far more wonderful than any words about them.” (excerpt from Upstream)

Is that what it is about books then? The hope of suggestion? Reading about love is not quite as delicious an experience as having love, (as the sunflower is to the words describing it) but when the experience of love is out of reach, is reading of it and feeling the hope of it not a satisfactory substitute?