A book is not just a book
I had a magical moment in a bookstore this week. It happened in Taree - I was up there to do an Author Talk at the Taree Library. For anyone who hasn’t been there, Taree is on the Mid North NSW coast. It’s right on the Manning River (see snap#1), and it’s only a short drive away from Saltwater Point (snap#2) – which was a bonus for me, because I hadn’t surfed Saltwater before.
After the talk (thank you to everybody who came!) I got a lift back to my car from Nicky, owner of Manning Valley Books. It was dark by then and the bookstore was closed, but Nicky had a few things to drop off inside, so she invited me in to look around. And she said something like: Even if it’s been a hard day, all I need is that little bit of time in here by myself when the store is closed, and I know it’s all worth it.
Well, I’ve never been in a bookstore after hours before. But I completely got what she meant. The place had this hushed energy. Something to do with all those books. It got me thinking about how a book is more than a story. It’s more than something created by the author. It’s also a publisher taking a risk, and layer upon layer of invisible work by an editor, and final grooming by proof readers, and all those careful choices made by the designer – the cover, the font, the chapter headings – and then there are the printers, marketing people, sales reps, and the distributors, and the bookstore staff who unpack those books and decide where to place them in the store … The list goes on.
All of those people, all of their energy, is in a book. And that’s even before it gets read! Because to me, when a book gets read, well, that’s when it really takes on a life of its own. The story gets a new interpretation from every reader. If the book is loved, it might be passed around. Who knows how far it will travel? (Have you ever read something and found someone else’s scrawled comment in the margin? I love that. Story graffiti.)
Every time I’ve ever moved – and I have moved a lot – unpacking my books is always one of the first things I do. Only then do I feel at home. And there are about twenty books that get their own shelf. Some of them I’ve read lots of times. Some of them I've only been able to read once – not because they're bad, but because they're too emotionally intense to re-visit yet.
Those books are more than books. They’re part of my identity. Touchstones from different times in my life. If ever there was a house fire, I’d grab the photo albums for sure, but I’d probably grab those books first.
How about you? Photo albums or books? Have you got a special books shelf? What are some of the books on it? And what I really want to know is – do you ever leave notes in the margins of books for the next reader?
PS Thank you for all your comments on the last post! I responded a while ago, but it’s not up yet.
PPS Don’t forget the GIVEAWAY. Just joined us and want to know more? The details are in my second post …