‘I don’t know why he can’t get his books from the library,’ says his wife, who doesn’t see the point of buying books at all. What she fails to notice is the pleasure her husband gets from his weekly visit to our bookshop, the care and attention he pays to choosing his next book, and the full report he gives on his previous purchase when he arrives in the following Friday. Buying a new book is as much to do with the sensory satisfaction of holding it in your hand as the knowledge that between the covers lies another world waiting to be revealed.
No matter how many books sit on my shelf at home, or balance precariously on the ‘to be read’ pile, the lure of a new title is irresistible for this bookseller. Luckily, many of our customers feel the same way! When I came across this quotation, I thought: at last, a kindred spirit.
“The buying of more books than one can read
is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity.”
—A. Edward Newton
There are two types of people in this world: those for whom reading isn’t a priority, and the rest of us who can’t be without a book waiting in the wings for when we finish the one we’re currently racing through. Ages ago I put aside Wildlife by Richard Ford, a novel I’d never got around to reading. Boy was I glad as I headed off for a weekend conference in Norwich, knowing that Wildlife sat neatly in my hand luggage, ready to be taken out the minute I was buckled into my seat. And what joy that turned out to be! Richard Ford has written lots of books, some weightier than others, but he packs more into this short novel of 195 pages than lesser writers can put in twice as many. There are three main characters, each distinctly their own personality, with hopes and dreams that, at times, clash and cause rupture in this family’s life. The fallout threatens to disturb the order of things but after a time there is a settling, a sort of equilibrium, and so the novel ends.
I look for it now on my bookcase and hope I haven’t foolishly lent it to a friend because I need it to be there as reassurance there is writing to aspire to, and a reminder of the joy found therein on a long weekend away from home.