At the mere sight

Does this photo make you smile?  I hope so! I snapped it inside a bookstore in Charlottesville, Virginia, in June 2014.

Does this photo make you smile? I hope so!
I snapped it inside a bookstore in Charlottesville, Virginia, in June 2014.

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”
Jane Smiley

I was quite a few years into adulthood before I realized that the mere presence of books was a comfort to me, even if I didn’t reach out and take one from the shelf.  This seemed a bit illogical at first.  I wondered whether it had to do with my early memories of my mother, a frugal woman with little money to spare in my preschool years, who nonetheless bought me a Little Golden Book on each trip to the grocery store.  Perhaps I equate books with love, I thought.

But that’s only part of the equation.  I have to factor in the human presence that I find in books; when I pick one up, I know I will be encountering at least one other person, and often many, who will dull the edge of loneliness I sometimes feel even among crowds. The voice of a book is almost invariably more personal and direct than a lot of what passes for conversation in casual gatherings.

And of course, there’s the matter of distraction from the woes of my immediate surroundings.  No matter what is troubling me, I know that a book will take me away for however long a time I choose to spend with it.  It may open my eyes to things I hadn’t noticed before, or my mind to ideas I’d never encountered.  It may introduce me to worlds so delightfully similar to my own that I feel an instant sense of belonging, or so astoundingly different that I am stunned by the novelty.

Books are more than books.  They are promises of discovery, consolation, excitement or enchantment.  They are, contrary to the stereotype of the solitary and introverted bookworm, one of the surest ways we have of getting outside ourselves and into a realm where we realize that we are not the center of the universe.

What to you see when you see a book?  How do you feel when you enter a roomful of them?

One year ago today:

What really knocks me out

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Dorothy

    Hullo Julia, like you, books have always been in my life since I can remember. New South Wales has now been in strict Lockdown since mid June and Libraries are closed. Through the Library there is access to Borrow Box and Indy Books (ebooks). As a person living on my own I’m allowed to have a “buddy” who may visit to have a chat and cup of tea and I’m able to lend books to my friend. Another friend recently moved away from the Blue Mountains and left me a whole series of Detective Mysteries! I’m so thankful to have a garden to enjoy and tend and a number of piano students are having online lessons. Reading is such a joy and look forward to our Library being open again. Best wishes to you and Matt. Dorothy 😊

    • Hi Dorothy, I’m always so happy to hear from you. It’s great that you are finding sources for books– what would we do without them? I’m also so happy that you can continue to teach online so that your students do not lose too much ground. I was so happy when our libraries began to open with greatly restricted hours, and I hope they don’t shut down again. I wish I could be your “buddy” for a cup of tea and a chat, but just pretend I was there! What detective series do you most enjoy? I have read the first few books in several series but one that I keep hearing about, but haven’t tried yet, is the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny– have you tried those? Stay safe and well! I’m still dreaming of that trip to Australia and perhaps someday we can have a non-virtual cup of tea together! 🙂

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